Jordan Peele, one of the two mainstays of Comedy Central duo Key & Peele, had to know he was branching into deeper waters when he approached a socio-political horror story.
Get Out, Peele’s debut film, follows Chris and Rose, an interracial couple living in modern-day America. Chris has decided he is finally ready to buckle up and meet the parents. He asks only one thing before they set off on the road trip: “Do they know I’m black?” Rose laughs off the question. Chris quickly forgets about it, and they are packed and ready to go that afternoon.
The ensuing car ride is when Peele’s trademark comedy starts to slip into the narrative. A hysterical phone call to Chris’ friend could convince unsuspecting audience members that they walked into the wrong movie. What started out looking like a horror film has turned the corner to comedy. And Chris and Rose are laughing right alongside the audience — when a deer jumps out in front of their car.
At the drop of a dime, all evidence of comedy is gone. A somber mood remains until Chris steps out of the car to meet Missy and Dean, Rose’s parents. However, Missy and Dean aren’t the only people Chris meets. Coming up the drive, he sees Georgina, the black housekeeper, and Walter, the black groundskeeper, both of whom act strangely robotic. Chris is perturbed. Georgina and Walter end up being Peele’s principal means of addressing modern social issues.
The deer jumping in front of the car is only the first of many times that the film suddenly jumps from comedy to horror. The defining quality of Get Out is its ability to get the audience to laugh one moment and scream the next. Its defining success, however, is accomplishing this feat with subtlety. It is the first movie I’ve ever seen where laughing at a jump scare is actually a compliment to the filmmaker, and yes, I am calling Peele a ‘filmmaker.’
But Get Out does have its fair share of imperfections. Despite the triumph of the story and its various characters, Peele does not quite live up to the full potential of the material. The key performances lack clarity and continuity. An unjustified expression or a poorly rendered drunken slur take the audience out of the action. The quality of some scenes and characters is simply too cartoonish.
Even though Get Out is not perfect, it is far more weighty than Peele’s sketches on Key & Peele. A substitute teacher mispronouncing student names is no match against a portrait of modern slavery. For his ambition and his ambition alone, Peele deserves recognition, but somehow the movie also manages to be an A-plus piece of entertainment.
The debut film aims high, and it achieves a lot. Horror movies are not often worthwhile. Comedy movies are in the same boat. Against all odds, Peele somehow scraped together a horror comedy that succeeds on both fronts. If Peele can keep pushing out thought-provoking, gripping movies like this one, his days as a practitioner of sketch comedy are over and his role as a visionary filmmaker has just begun.
MOVE gives "Get Out" 4 out of 5 stars.