Horror lurks everywhere, the best horror movies like to remind us. “Get Out”confirms what many of us have long suspected: something dreadful is happening in the wealthy suburbs. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) has been dating Rose (Allison Williams) for five months. They’ve become a serious couple. She decides it’s time to bring him home to meet her family. The catch is that Chris is black and Rose is white. Her family doesn’t know she’s in an interracial relationship. Chris agrees to meet her family (Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, and Caleb Landry Jones) at their remote lake house. The visit turns into something entirely unexpected.
Get Out is the writing and directing debut of Jordan Peele, one half of the team behind the great sketch comedy series Key and Peele. It’s also his first major project since the series ended and he collaborated with Keegan-Michael Key on last year’s future-cult-classic comedy Keanu, the movie takes a jaundiced look at interracial relationships, limousine liberals and self-delusion, and throws in some survival-action elements, too. It’s very funny at times, but it isn’t a comedy. It is that very rare of beasts: a new and original motion picture.
Sometimes politics creeps into horror movies by chance. George Romero, for instance, has said he hired African-American actor Duane Jones as the lead in Night of the Living Dead not because of his race but because he was the best actor. That would make the film’s finale, with its images echoing a lynch mob, and all the heated conversations Jones’ protagonist has with the white characters who doubt him resonant accidents.
Peele does deploy humor throughout the film — Lil Rel Howery has a scene-stealing role as Chris’ friend who warns him against taking the trip — Get Out is a smart and unsparing horror movie to the bone. It’s a horror movie in which virtually every element works, starting with Kaluuya’s subtle performance. But the real revelation here is Peele. That he brings a sharp sensibility to his debut film, even one outside the genre that made him famous, should probably have been unexpected. That he brings the technical skill of a practiced horror master is more of a surprise. The final thrill of Get Out — beyond the slow-building sense of danger, the unsettling atmosphere, and the twisty revelation of what’s really going on — is that Peele’s just getting started.