An ambitious filmmaking debut from Jordan Peele, “Get Out” aims to be a bit more than just a horror comedy. Funny at times but more concerned with unsettling its audience, this film is an often serious satire that only descends into outright terror in the third act. Peele isn’t fully able to mix the comedy and the horror in a totally seamless manner, but both do work independent of each other. By slowly ratcheting up the tension, he allows “Get Out” to disturb more and more, before finally giving you some real messed up stuff towards the end. An exciting new voice in genre filmmaking, you’ll be eager to see what Peele has up his sleeve next.
A real slow burn, this movie is probably one extra pass on the screenplay from really being something special. The central mystery isn’t solved in a totally satisfying way and the comedy stands out like a sore thumb from the horror. Now, the funny moments are very funny, but they often feel like something completely separate. Far stronger overall than “Keanu,” which Peele co-wrote, this flick is just a good one falling slightly short of being great. The stereotypes being played with are deftly handled, as Peele deals with loaded subject matter in a way that never feels heavy-handed.
The concept here is a loaded one. Who hasn’t feared meeting their new significant other’s parents? For Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), not only is he generally worried about going with Rose (Allison Williams) to her parents’ house upstate, he’s also concerned that they don’t know he’s black. Rose insists it won’t matter and that her dad would have voted for President Obama a third time if he could have. When they arrive at the large home of Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), things appear normal enough at first. Sure, there’s a pair of servants, but the couple seem nice. Slowly but surely though, things escalate.
First, it’s just meeting Rose’s brother (Caleb Landry Jones). Then, it’s the increasingly strange ways that guests at the home talk to Chris. As he becomes more and more suspicious, ominous elements of this family are revealed. You’ll see what that means, but the surprise won’t be spoiled here. Nor will we get into how the opening sequence involving a lost individual (Lakeith Stanfield) ties into it all. Just know that it’s deeply messed up in a very unique way.
None of the performances in “Get Out” bowl you over, but there’s a commitment to the material that you have to admire. Getting a lead role to sink his teeth into, Daniel Kaluuya is compelling and a steady screen presence. Kaluuya impressed in “Sicario” and is just as good here. Allison Williams is incredibly charming, even if she’s underutilized once the second half of the movie gets going. Catherine Keener is sadly a bit wasted, though she has one strong centerpiece sequence to play around with. Bradley Whitford is fine yet unremarkable, while Caleb Landry Jones chews the scenery, as per the usual. They all do their jobs well enough, but there’s no standout work to overly praise.
Also on hand supporting Peele and his vision is the aforementioned Lakeith Stanfield in a vital role, though his screen time is limited. Other players include Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson and Stephen Root. Finally, there’s LilRel Howery, as Chris’ friend Rodney. He’s the source of most of the comedy in “Get Out.” Howery is very funny, but the character seems out of another film. He’s like a deleted scene from “Keanu” stuffed into this flick. The material is good, but it doesn’t mix as well as Peele probably had hoped for.
Peele has some real directorial chops. While never overtly referencing it, the racial overtones of a horror film like the original “Night of the Living Dead” are clearly felt throughout. That’s a credit not just to his writing, but his direction as well. The look and feel of the film is one of creeping dread. The only thing holding “Get Out” back is that the third act feels far more ridiculous than what has come before. That’s a shame, considering how well deployed the satire of race relations is throughout. There’s also the sense that the production was slightly hindered by its budget. Working under Jason Blum and Blumhouse gave Peele creative freedom, but perhaps hamstrung him with third act finances. These are small complaints, but they keep that extra half star from being bestowed upon the film.
Overall, “Get Out” showcases above all else Peele as a filmmaker worth paying attention to. Allowed to put forward his unique vision by producer Blum, Peele whets your appetite for what might come next. The movie is, outside of “Logan” and maybe “The LEGO Batman Movie,” the best wide release of 2017 so far. If you’re a fan of Peele from the days of “Key & Peele,” this is something very different but just as promising. Genre fans will dig this, as will fans of strong satire. Small flaws aside, there’s a lot to like here. “Get Out” is easy to recommend and likely will become one of the year’s early audience favorites.
“Get Out” is distributed by Universal Pictures and opens in theaters on Feb. 24.