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Jordan Peele's horror movie is incredibly smart about its subtext
GET OUT (Jordan Peele). 103 minutes. Opens Friday (February 24). See listing. Rating: NNNNN
Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a straight-up horror movie, which might confuse people who know the guy as one-half of TV’s Key & Peele and their action-comedy Keanu. What’s he doing trying to scare people?
Well, he’s doing a hell of a job, is what he’s doing, using familiar genre tropes to reveal what’s still potent about them, folding in his own commentary as he goes. Just as Edgar Wright’s Shaun Of The Dead used a zombie apocalypse as the backdrop to a meditation on arrested development and emotional growth, Get Out takes a standard horror premise and rips it open to engage with its seething class and racial subtext.
As in a dozen other horror movies, Get Out follows a young man who accompanies his girlfriend home to meet her parents, and finds unimaginable horrors behind the pleasant façade. But this one’s loaded: our hero Chris (Sicario’s Daniel Kaluuya) is Black his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) and her parents (Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener) are white, and the rot spreads well beyond one household.
Peele spends the first movement making us acutely aware of the multiple layers within every exchange and every instance of code-switching in the creepy Armitage household, where Black servants speak with Stepfordized precision. Even before the really weird stuff starts, we’re watching and listening very, very closely.
That makes it easy for Peele to throw in a few jump scares, but Get Out isn’t really that kind of horror movie. Instead, it offers a long, slow sink into dread. Peele gradually makes it clear that what’s happening in the Armitages’s basement is just the latest expression of something a certain segment of America has been trying to do for centuries.
Peele leavens the message with occasional (and much-needed) explosions of unexpected comedy, but have no illusions: he’s dead serious about the story he’s telling. The result is a remarkable genre work that stands with the best of them.
I can’t wait to see what he does for an encore.