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‘Get Out’ Review: Jordan Peele’s Directorial Debut Is A Horror Movie Unafraid To Call Out Racist Bullshit — Sundance 2017

Nothing in "Get Out" is as scary as the things that inspired it, but it's great to see a film about race that frightens instead of flatters.

Jordan Peele Get Out

“Get Out”

It’s never a good sign when Catherine Keener is the scariest thing in your horror movie, but if “Get Out” isn’t half as scary as the ideas that inspired it, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is almost certain to be the boldest — and most important — studio genre release of the year. What it lacks in fear, it nearly makes up for in fearlessness.

When Hollywood wants to talk about race, it’s usually an inspirational film, set at some point in the past, that sparks discussion. It doesn’t matter if that setting is the 19th century, the civil rights movement, or even sometime last week; it’s any time that isn’t right this moment. Stories of injustice are always more comfortable being watched over your shoulder, so these films bring a wedge of distance so that (white) audiences don’t feel implicated in the on-screen suffering. “Get Out,” however, feels no such obligations. A broadly commercial horror comedy about a black guy trying to survive his first weekend with his white girlfriend’s family, it’s locked in the present, it’s about race, and — more than that — it’s about how it can’t not be about race.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams, enjoyably riffing on the whiteness of “Girls”) have been dating for almost five months, and it’s time to meet the parents. Chris has been an orphan since he was a kid, but Rose’s folks are alive and well. There’s just one problem, even if Rose doesn’t think it will be a problem: She hasn’t told her mom (Keener) and dad (Bradley Whitford) that her boyfriend is black. Chris suggests that she might want to give them a heads up, but Rose insists that she comes from a family of good liberals (“My dad would have voted for Obama for a third term!”).

And so off they go, driving through the woods on their way to the beautiful, secluded house that Rose’s parents own in the suburbs of wherever. Alas, trouble starts before they even get there, as their car slams into a deer, and the cop who comes the sceney can’t resist the temptation to give Chris a hard time. There isn’t a single scene that escapes racial tension — the story may go completely off the rails, but that detail keeps “Get Out” believable enough to backstop all of its twists.

READ MORE: The 2017 IndieWire Sundance Bible: Every Review, Interview, And News Story From The Fest

Rose’s parents seem normal enough. Sure, they’re the whitest people alive, and their anxious attempts to ignore Chris’ race inevitably make it the elephant in the room, but, uh, at least her dad is self-aware about the optics of having an all-black staff? Besides, the eerily hostile groundskeeper (Marcus Henderson) and the unblinking maid (a scene-stealing Betty Gabriel) seem happy enough to be there — maybe a bit too happy, in fact.

It isn’t long before Chris starts to get creeped out. Rose’s lacrosse-playing brother is bad enough (Caleb Landry Jones plays the character like he was cut out of “Funny Games”), but he’s got nothing on her therapist mother, who ropes Chris into an involuntary hypnotism session that temporarily strands him in the darkest recesses of his own mind (how fitting that the accompanying visual effect nods back to “Being John Malkovich”). By the time Rose’s family hosts a party at which the only other black guest (Lakeith Stanfield) is dressed like a dandy and dating a white woman twice his age, Chris knows that something seriously fucked up is going on. Cue jump-scares, crazy revelations, mildly satisfying gore, and a second half that never quite figures out what to do with the loaded ideas confronted by the first.

Betty Gabriel Get Out

“Get Out”

This may be his first time behind the camera, but Peele (of “Key & Peele” fame) knows what he’s doing. His debut displays a natural ability to pivot between comedy and horror at a moment’s notice (Edgar Wright comes to mind), and his idiosyncratic voice feels relatively undiminished by the compromises of studio filmmaking (credit to horror-movie superproducer Jason Blum, who respects what his directors bring to the table).

That said, rookie mistakes abound. Peele could likely cut together a masterpiece from all of the opportunities he wastes here, as even the movie’s most intense sequences aren’t as frightening as their implications. However, the guy has a great eye for detail (the house is a monster unto itself) and he gets great stuff out of his cast. Chris’ tragic backstory goes to waste, but Kaluuya still finds plenty of nuance within the rare genre protagonist who never does anything stupid (besides assuming that his blackness wouldn’t be an issue). And LilRel Howery is hilarious as Chris’ skeptical best friend who immediately assumes that Rose’s family is up to some weird, brainwashing, sex-slave conspiracy shit.

Still, nothing in “Get Out” is as funny as it could be, or as frightening as the fact that this film needed to be made in the first place. Peele might end his movie with a whimper of a third act, but the timidity of his storytelling is erased by the clear-eyed courage of his story. Without blinking, this film stares down some of the most damning truths about prejudice and intersectionality. It makes no bones about calling out white people for two-faced racism, taking particular exception to “the good ones” who are woke by day and sinister by night; who keep it 100 in public, and roughly -25 in private.

Peele’s premise proves too difficult to dramatize, but it cleverly allows him to riff on the conflicting white desires to simultaneously appropriate and erase black culture (an idea that Stanfield’s character embodies to perfection). And while black men are unmistakably the heroes here, there’s enough side-eye aimed at subservience to prevent them from completely dodging the shade. Needless to say, a lot of people aren’t going to be super comfortable about how the film plays out, but that’s not Peele’s problem. If anything, it’s his point, and it’s fun to watch him make it. “Get Out” may be deeply flawed, but it’s about time Hollywood put some muscle behind a movie that was less interested in flattering audiences than it was in scaring them straight.

Grade: B-

“Get Out” premiered as a surprise screening at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. It will be released in theaters on February 24th.

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Comments

Rachael

Key and Peele’s movie is going to play better to white people than black people. There’s a disconnect that Key and Peele have with the black community. Whenever they portray black people it’s in an inauthentic manner that’s quite off-putting. It’s like they portray us as if they weren’t one of us. It’s not about them not being “black enough” it’s them viewing black people in such a generic broad manner with no nuance. Us black folks like George Michaels, why you acting like that would blow our minds.

It’s like Russell simmons said Key and Peele are black comedians for white people and when they portray race. It’s hard to explain man. I’ll give this a shot though. We shall see if the disconnect continues

    Erik

    Really?! So white people are going to enjoy yet another anti white “whites are racist” race mixing propaganda piece? Yeah we’re pretty much fu**ing tired of it.

      J

      This movie is so overrated and so over-hyped and the reason it’s getting nearly all positive reviews is because if you say something negative about it then you’ll be called a racist. This movie is ridiculous, over-the-top, slow, unfunny and basically could have saved everyone an hour and 40 minutes if Peele just said, “All white people are evil racists.”

      Lola

      I just saw the movie last night. My boyfriend hadn’t been to the movies in like ten years and I finally talked him into going. We decided we wanted to see something scary. So I asked my son to see what was playing. He named off a few and I asked him what Get Out was about. He said it was a scary flick. So I watched a trailer. Looked pretty legit. As soon as the movie started I new where it was headed and I just sat there in disbelief. This wasn’t a scary movie. This was more like a set up. Like I dare you to criticize or say one thing that you felt wrong about the movie or you will be deemed a racist. The movie had no real plot. It jumped every where. The acting was way over stated by the close ups of the main characters death eye state he was giving everyone. The Black dude in the suit acting very white. The movie itself was dumb. So..This is what it’s come down too? Now we make movies shaming the white race and we are suppose to be like” Yep, that’s true, we do act like that.” Unbelievable. This movie smells like a rat. You know it’s a trap as soon as he ask his girlfriend if her parents know he’s black. Honestly..I wish I could have my money back on the basis of being ashamed that this movie was even allowed to be made let alone played in a public place. Shit like this will only make the division of people wider.

    LD

    This Peele’s movie—Key did not have a part in this one. And while I rarely watched their TV show, I did see this film. Impressive for a first time director. Go see it.

Joshua H Clark

That’s all we need right now….another movie trying to demonize white people

Carlos

I am not black, I’m actually hispanic. However, watching this movie would scare me too much. I have dated white girls before, and wouldn’t like to picture myself in a situation like this one. When you said we may not like the way the movie plays out, you are pretty much saying the black guy dies. Yeah, I’m not watching this movie…

    Erik

    Carlos… First of all MAGA… Second of all, there are FAR more racist anti white Hispanics than the reverse. It’s not even remotely close. Someone saying they are proud of being white is vilified as if they are a demon. La Raza is considered “pride.” I’ve dated many Hispanic women. Plenty of their families and friends were none too pleased. Get over it.

      Josef

      Relax there, bud. Go MAGA somewhere else.

    Gayle
Brandon

Way to pander to racists on the other side of the aisle. I don’t know how many times people have to explain this but most white people arent racist, nor are we all the same. This movie doesn’t inspire good dialogue that heals. The padt is just that, the past.

    LD

    You need to see a movie before you can make a statement like that. You have no idea what you are talking about.

Michael

When will someone make a film about all the black-on-white crime that’s happening in the United States, including the knockout game and other assaults, robberies, rapes, and murders. This would be a documentary. Although blacks are about 10% of the population, they commit 90% of violent crimes. The mainstream media is too afraid to broach the subject, because the lies of political correctness have infected them.

    Macho

    Can you provide some a source for these alarming statistics!?!

      OG_Ellen_D

      Black-on-white crime isn’t as frequent as Michael suggests, people are 10x more likely to commit a crime against their own race. That being said, black people (who compromise ~13% of the population) are responsible for ~50% of homicides.

      source: Department of Justice https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf

      On topic: I agree with Rachel, the film seems to pander to self-hating whites. Movie looks bad and I bet it will tank at the box office.

        Trigger Warning

        Your stats are accurate. When will Hollywood make a movie about black on black violence or Arab racism against blacks in the middle East…. Never haha

        LD

        When I saw the trailer, I had no desire to see it either. Then I saw the 100% rating on RT. I had to see it then. I was not disappointed.

    Erik

    I wonder when Hollywood Jews will make a movie… Just ONE about the fact Marx Trotsky and Lenin were Jews and murdered 66 million white Christians. Or perhaps about the fact Jews ran the slave trade or the East India Trading company. Gee I wonder why they keep peddling anti white propaganda pieces while ommittin truths like the aforementioned? Hmm. What ever could their agenda be?! They love that white girl black guy sh** they push on us constantly in media and porn. They LOVE that.

Trigger Warning

This movie will flop. Another bullshit movie pushing a liberal agenda that all white people are racist. Great job Hollywood for alienating your audience.

    LD

    Number 1 movie in its opening weekend. And the audience in the theater I saw it in was overwhelmingly white.

Erik

More anti white propaganda. Naturally written by a black man, and peddled by Jews. Funny how those “white” people, the Jews are behind almost every radical left anti white ideology. I wonder what will happen when whites wake up? Also this movie pushes race misegination, of course displaying a black man with a white girl. 95% of the time that is what’s pushed by media Jews and their gay and feminist liberal underlings. Tired of it.

    LD

    Wrong. The movie doesn’t push miscegenation (you spelled it wrong). The hero of the movie tells the male lead at the end “I told you not to go to that house.” Those people, black or white, who won’t admit how complicated interracial relationships can be will not like the message of this film.

hypocrites

Poor racists snowflakes….can’t take a movie that’s meant to be funny and entertaining. are you triggered by this movie? stop being such a snowflake you snowflakes.

    J

    You need a thesaurus. You…. probably don’t know what that is.

Hera

I wasn’t planning on seeing this in theaters but seeing the comment sections of every website that talks about this movie explode with butthurt white people ‘victimized’ by this movie makes me want to go out and see it more. Minorities and foreigners have been the bad guys in movies for ages but everytime the table is turned the movie doing the turning is just another ‘white hate’ movie. Half the time minorities in modern Hollywood don’t even get to play their own roles and passed over in favor of white washing characters so excuse me for not buying into the claim that Hollywood is out to get whites. How but all the people mad about this movie being ‘white hate propaganda’ take the advice they’re always foisting on minorities and stop getting so upset over nothing eh?

    LD

    Perfect response.

    Gayle

    Saw the movie tonight, and it was great. This is not a white racist versus black racist
    film. It is an intelligent, funny,horror show, with the usual foreshadowing. Don’t condemn what you haven’t even watched.

    Lola

    That’s not true. I actually thought it would be cool twist to see the black man being the hero. It was all the racial profiling that pissed me off. But I guess I’m not allowed to feel that way because I’m white. I’m just suppose to sit there and take it. I watched the trailer and got excited to see the movie. This movie was down right unimaginably stupid. The only part that was good was the funny best friend. Thank God for him. He made the movie some what sustainable.

      ben

      Lola, you pretending that white people get racially profiled is hilarious. keep going with your bitter hate of this movie just because it dared touch on a subject that makes white Americans uncomfortable. y’all wanna act like you guys don’t see race yet somehow half of y’all voted Trump in

paulski

Damn near perfect review and grade by David Ehrlich. This was a good movie, quite enjoyable even at times, but by no means the masterpiece people are making it out to be. The pacing is simply awful – so slow in several sections, and then wraps up in less than 10 minutes with a rapid sequence of ‘good overcomes evil’ deaths. Most of the humour was well done, but it started to grate by the end – sex slaves, yeah we get it. But, by god, get over your persecuted white man complex, people – these were just a bunch of evil scumbags, it really didn’t matter what colour they were.

Jackie

This movie is essentially a 1950s B Movie updated with some very blunt racial commentary and a ton of microsoft product placement. No thinking human would feel challenged by its views on race, or scared by its faux attempts at horror. This is pure complacency and dull exploitation. Meh.

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