After a five-month romance, Rose (Allison Williams) invites Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) for a weekend getaway to meet her parents, an already nerve-wracking proposition for most boyfriends made even more precarious by the fact that Rose hasn’t bothered to tell her parents that she’s dating a black man. Chris obviously has some experience in this department, but Rose downplays his concern by pointing out that her father “would have voted for Obama a third time, if he could have.”
That statement, repeated almost verbatim by neurosurgeon pop Dean (Bradley Whitford) in a later scene, is no doubt meant to be reassuring, but it’s just one of the many utterances by oblivious, affluent white people trying to showcase how racist they aren’t. In another cringe-worthy moment, a former golf pro points out that he knew Tiger Woods personally, while Dean boasts about his own father, who lost a race to Jesse Owens before the 1936 Olympics, where his victory was seen as a repudiation of Adolf Hitler’s politics. It’s like a neverending game of hyper-liberal one-upmanship, where everyone is trying to impress Chris with their open-mindedness.
Through all these casual indignities, Chris maintains a “grin and bear it” attitude – it’s just for a weekend, and it’s certainly not his first encounter with white ignorance. But he’s less prepared for the family’s hired help, groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel), seemingly the only black faces in the community, both of whom are overly cordial in a Stepford Wives kind of way. The unease Chris feels about being an outsider eventually gives way to a feeling more akin to paranoia, and he’s convinced something sinister is afoot, especially when Rose’s mother (Catherine Keener) insists on trying to hypnotize him.
When the threat lurking in the shadows is finally revealed, it’s admittedly horrifying, but not in the way audiences might expect from a Blumhouse production. That’s not to say that Get Out isn’t a horror film, because it certainly is, but in his feature-length debut, director Jordan Peele (who also wrote the screenplay) is more interested in exposing the superficial, rather than the supernatural. An undertone of racial tension permeates the entire film, and Peele revels in the opportunity to lay bare the foolishness and hypocrisy of rich white liberals, offering some timely political and social commentary amid the gore and jump-scares.
Get Out isn’t devoid of faults – the climax is a bit lackluster, and there’s a conspiracy-obsessed TSA agent who feels like a cartoon character – but for the most part, Peele’s foray into the genre is a knockout. The laughs may come more frequently than the scares, but the latter are no less impactful, and Peele’s film emerges as a bold reshaping of age-old tropes and clichés that feels incredibly fresh and original.