“Stay woke,” Childish Gambino warns at the beginning of “Get Out.”
The news that Donkey Teeth from the East/West Bowl was directing a horror movie about a black man meeting his girlfriend’s white parents may have inspired PTSD flashbacks of “Scary Movie 2,” but any real Key and Peele fan appreciates the meticulous attention to detail put into their sketches that could only come from true film nerds.
“Get Out” was dropped in a time of extreme racial divisiveness. Civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter are growing increasingly agitated at the same that the recently-elected president was endorsed by a range of white supremacists.
“Get Out” is a horror movie that focuses on the most horrifying monster imaginable: cultural appropriation. Black people are treated merely as marginalized topics of conversation, whether athletes or rappers, to service white people through entertainment of exploitation, depriving them of their humanity … if you could possibly imagine such a world.
The plot, basically, is that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) travels upstate to meet the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams). Her parents are not snarling blatantly-racist Klan members, but rather stuffy, rich liberals who frequently insist they “would have voted for Obama for a third term.”
It’s difficult to review a movie littered with so many huge spoilers. The previews for the movie showed only material from approximately the first act, a deviation from modern film advertising which shares way too much information and thus ruins the joy of the cinematic viewing experience.
Just know that a whole bunch of crazy things start happening right out of the gate. Early on, sanity begins to subtly crack and eventually shatter. Then the inevitable mayhem ensues. Audiences will have no idea what to expect, with twists and turns around every corner. Spectators will need to stay vigilant, or, in the words of Donald Glover, stay woke. Anyone going expecting a conventional horror movie or a conventional comedy or a conventional mix of the two will walk out thinking, “What the hell did I just watch?”
The acting is phenomenal on all fronts. Lakeith Stanfield seems to be a scene-stealer in everything he is in, from a troubled teen in “Short Term 12” to the stoned sidekick in “Atlanta,” and “Get Out” is no different. Although he is only in two scenes, he gives a memorable performance and is a fierce presence.
“Get Out” is Daniel Kaluuya’s first lead role in a major motion picture, but he had already proved his merit with a haunting standout performance in “Black Mirror.” He is able to pull off a sympathetic protagonist in a horror movie, which is no easy feat. Lil Rel Howery provides the only direct comic relief. Allison Williams reprises her role as naive white millennial with all her charm intact. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford need no praise from me, but yeah, they’re great.
There are few current films in the popular hemisphere that make me say, “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that before,” but “Get Out” is a genuinely strange and unsettling movie. Jordan Peele juggles a number of drastic tonal shifts. From the social commentary to the laugh-out-loud humor to the abstract off-kilter humor to the thrilling psychoanalysis to the tender character development to the graphic violence to the beautiful aesthetic palette to the clever horror flick satire to the reverent horror flick homages, this movie should not work, but somehow it does.