By Steve Newton
If you only see one horror movie this year, let it be Get Out. And if you only see one movie of any kind this year, same thing. It’s about as entertaining as celluloid gets.
The film opens with a young black man wandering an upscale suburban neighbourhood at night, talking on his cell, expressing mild fear that he’s out of his inner-city element. Then a white car with an unknown quantity of passengers starts stalking him and doesn’t let up until he turns around to head back where he came from.
But before he gets far a tall figure in a knight’s helmet sprints from the shadows and chokes him unconscious, drags him back to the car, stuffs him in the trunk, and drives off.
So what unspeakable evil awaits the innocent captive, you ask? Hell if I’m gonna tell. I have way too much respect for writer-director Jordan Peele’s brilliant, bar-raising horror flick to ruin it for anyone. That’s exactly how I felt about 2012’s The Cabin in the Woods, the last fright flick to leave me totally slayed by its blackly comic commentary on the evil that men do.
Speaking of TCITW, that film also featured ace weasel-portrayer Bradley Whitford, who this time plays surgeon Dean Armitage, a self-proclaimed liberal who likes to brag that he would have voted for Obama for a third term. He and his laidback psychologist wife Missy (the consistently strong Katherine Keener) have invited their beloved daughter Rose (Allison Williams of HBO’s Girls) to their mansion in the woods so they can meet her new photographer boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya). He’s worried because she hasn’t yet told them that he’s black, and in Breitbart-era America, that can be cause for concern. But Chris is just a nice, easygoing guy who cares so much for her that he decides their love can trump any hate.
When the two lovebirds arrive they do their best to ride out the tide of awkward conversation and racially motivated tension, which is upped by the Armitage’s habit of employing black servants, and the freakiness ratio multiplies when Rose’s protective brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) shows up. Having honed his skills playing warped hick Caleb in 2010’s underrated The Last Exorcism, the scarily pale Jones brings just the right amount of casual creepiness and simmering anger to get the film rolling on its jolly nightmare-making way.
And what a ride it is! Who knew that Peele–best known for the edgy comedy skits of TV’s Key & Peele–would prove so adept at creating tone and building tension. And the top-notch performances he coaxes from all involved–including The Purge: Election Year‘s Betty Gabriel as weird smiley/teary servant Georgina and Stephen Root as twisted art-dealer Jim Hudson–keep you ever interested.
Peele no doubt had the most fun crafting LilRel Howery’s wiseass TSA agent Rod, Chris’s best friend, who could easily be one of his more outgoing Key & Peele homies. But Rod’s feisty comical presence doesn’t dumb down the movie the way it surely could have.
There’s hardly a moment during the keenly edited Get Out that isn’t either funny, touching, thought-provoking, or scary as hell. I’ve been reviewing horror movies professionally sans bullshit since 1988–although I wound up writing this one just for fun–and I can honestly say that it’s in my top 10 of all time.
Bravo, Mr. Peele. Bravo.