Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya, of Sicario) is a young black photographer on the rise; Rose Armitage (Allison Williams, of Girls) is his wealthy white girlfriend. Chris and Rose have been together for five months now, and Rose has decided it’s time for Chris to meet her parents. Chris has reservations about this (has she told them he’s black? no?), but he goes along. Now here they are at the family’s luxe country estate, deep in the heart of white world—and not far from Hell, as soon becomes clear.
Get Out is a terrific first feature by writer-director Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele). It’s a horror movie that’s really creepy, but it’s also a sharp comedy that’s really, really funny; and the brilliant thing about it is that both the creeps and the laughs are solidly rooted in the director’s raw and unblinking racial observations.
Peele is obviously a horror-movie buff. The opening scene here, with a black kid being stalked on a late-night suburban street, recalls the classic leafy menace of John Carpenter’s Halloween; and parts of the rest of the film echo such earlier fright flicks as Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives. But Peele brings a spin to the terror tradition that’s all his own, and his movie plays like an instant classic.
Rose’s parents—neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford) and psychiatrist Missy (Catherine Keener)—are citizens of the republic of limousine liberals. Meeting Chris, her dad throws his arms wide and says, “Hug me, mah man!” He has an amiable interest in “this thang“—Chris and Rose’s relationship—and he says he would have voted for Obama three times if he could’ve. Missy, for her part, is distressed to see that Chris is a smoker, and she offers to cure him through hypnosis, her medical specialty. (“Uh oh,” you might think. And you’d be right.)
There are some oddities around the Armitage house. The family’s two black retainers—a maid named Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and her caretaker husband Walter (Marcus Henderson)—are bafflingly weird (they act as if they’re on a robot package tour from another planet). And Rose’s jerk brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) seems fixated on Chris’s genetic heritage, which he says would make him a “beast” in the world of martial arts. There’s also a staircase door that’s mysteriously locked—because of “black mold” in the basement, Chris is told. It’s all a little strange (“We are the gods,” Dean says, “trapped in cocoons”), and it quickly gets stranger.
Chris and Rose’s visit coincides with a big lawn-party gathering of family friends and neighbors—an avalanche of even more white people. Chris has an odd encounter with a blind art dealer (Stephen Root) and with another strange black person—a guy named Logan (Lakeith Stanfield), who seems somehow… familiar. Before long Chris notices that everyone seems to be sizing him up in some unsavory way, and we see that they’re all falling silent every time he leaves a room. Disconcerted, Chris makes occasional phone check-ins with his pal Rod (hilarious LilRel Howery), a TSA employee back in the city, who suspects that Chris has wandered into some sort of sex-slave underworld. If only that were all it was.
It would be wrong to say much more about what’s actually happening here. The plot unfolds like the petals of a black rose. This isn’t a gore movie, but as it progresses, Peele proves he can get his hands bloody with the best of them. He also manages to turn the simple scraping of a spoon in a teacup into a really unsettling sound effect. I’ll say no more. Except that something is definitely going on down in that basement.