Arts & Entertainment, Features

REVIEW: “Get Out” is scary, funny and definitely socially aware

Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris Washington in the new horror film, “Get Out,” which hits theaters on Friday. PHOTO COURTESY TOBY OLIVER

To have a good horror movie come out in this day and age is nearly impossible. To have it be written by such a high-profile comedian such as Jordan Peele, even more so. It’s hard to know what to expect — will it be pure horror, a comedic parody or something in between? “Get Out,” Peele’s first work as a film writer and director in the horror genre, is all of those at once, which makes for potentially one of best, if not the most complex, horror movies of these last few years.

The story follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young photographer living in New York with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), who wants to take him to meet her dad, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and her mom, Missy (Catherine Keener), in the suburbs. The catch? Chris is black and Rose is white, which gives Chris some valid reasons to worry about Rose’s parents — even his best friend Rod (LilRel Howery) seems to think so from the get-go.

Once the couple arrives at the house, however, the parents seem perfect, if not slightly creepy, as they host a party with friends from around the neighborhood. Yet what’s scarier is that besides Chris, there are only two other black people in the entire neighborhood, the maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and the gardener Walter (Marcus Henderson). Chris has two nights to find out just why everyone’s acting so weird, and once he does, how to get out of there.

The plot of “Get Out” may seem a little cliché at points, especially in regards to just how the initial creepiness of the parents is presented, yet it’s refreshing in that it’s never obvious enough that you can predict where it’ll go. Sure, you know there’s something wrong with the house, the parents, Georgina and Walter, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what until more than halfway through the movie. Rod even becomes a sort of surrogate for the audience, trying to figure out the reason behind it all through a series of phone calls with Chris, and effectively creating a whole map of theories for the viewer before all is revealed in the film’s third act.

What’s more, the entire first half has an almost surreal level of “planting,” putting in foreshadowing hints that eventually pay off by the movie’s end. And boy, do they pay off. Everything about the parents, Rose’s brother Jeremy’s (Caleb Landry Jones) unsettling conversation on sports, Chris’ calls with Rodney, every single microaggression toward Chris from the guests. It all builds an intricate mosaic, the true nature of which is masterfully uncovered by the end.

Speaking of microaggressions, “Get Out” is, of course, amazingly socially aware. All throughout the movie, Chris is constantly pelted with awkward questions on “whether the African-American has advantages or disadvantages” in today’s era, for example, or one of the party guests asking rather uncomfortable questions to Rose about their private life. “Get Out” uses what Peele called in an interview with Vanity Fair a “slice of the African-American experience” to create a story that plays with preconceived notions from both sides, much like Peele’s trademark form of humor seen in Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele.”

This isn’t a sketch or a parody. Chris’ fears and worries are all extremely validated given the world we live in. Adding horror elements old and new to the situation is to only make it a bit more visceral than it already was from the get-go. What’s notable, however, is that Chris’ (and subsequently Rod’s) worries regarding Rose’s family and their friends are right for the wrong reasons — in a sense, the villains are villains not because they’re racist or prejudiced, but those prejudices are another detail above their villainy. This sort of “casual racism,” present in so many aspects of today’s society, is “Get Out’s” main point of social critique, one that is extremely necessary in this day and age, which makes you ask yourself: at what point will you start to feel creeped out by the movie and its antagonists, from the get-go or only when they reveal themselves to be villains?

All of these elements are what make Chris’ escape and survival all the more visceral. Audiences will gasp in worry whenever he is in danger, and applaud him when he escapes, and rightfully so, making Chris maybe one of the most compelling horror protagonists of the entire genre. It uses and eschews the tropes of the genre all at once, all while using social commentary to heighten the tension of the plot.

So if you’re looking for a horror movie with actual depth, one with incredibly-written characters, high-adrenaline stakes and a plot that makes sense, don’t miss out on “Get Out.”

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