On the surface, Jordan Peele is not someone most would expect to write and direct a serious horror film. After all, he’s best known for his years starring in the hit Comedy Central sketch comedy series Key & Peele, alongside frequent collaborator – and real-life best friend – Keegan-Michael Key. Prior to that, the duo put in time together as part of the cast of FOX’s Mad TV, another sketch series. Still, horrify is exactly what he sets out to do with Get Out, his directorial debut.
Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario) as Chris, a young black man who heads off with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams, Girls) to meet her parents (played by screen veterans Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) at their rural family estate. Rose’s parents waste no time in behaving quite strangely and treating Chris in ways that make him visibly uncomfortable. At first, he chalks it up to them being unsure of how to react to their daughter’s new interracial relationship, but before long, it becomes clear that something far worse is really going on.
While Get Out certainly has moments of dark humor – a few of which have been seen in the trailers for the film – for the most part, the project is a deadly serious horror movie meant to shock and scare. As Peele has made clear in various interviews, he’s a long-time fan of the genre and looked to unsettling classics like Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives for inspiration. However, Get Out’s plot also clearly plays off of the undercurrents of racial prejudice that still permeate American society, a fact co-star Whitford recently expounded upon at the film’s premiere, as reported by Variety:
“What’s really interesting about [the film] is it’s not a horror movie about overt racism, but it’s a very interesting way of looking at unconscious, white liberal racism.”
Whitford’s statement is, of course, likely to cause controversy with some, but the fact that it came from the mouth of a white actor is certainly likely to lend a different connotation to it among those who hear it than if say Peele himself had said it. Still, there’s no denying that race relations very much remains a hot-button topic in 2017, especially since many view recently-elected president Donald Trump – along with several other members of his administration – as being hostile toward people of color.
Despite the potential for racially-charged subject matter to cause division among audiences, it’s really not all that surprising that Peele would decide to go there with his directing debut. After all, many of the sketches on K&P dealt directly and openly with racism – including of the less obvious kind – and the sometimes stark differences between the white and black experiences in America. Subject matter aside, all signs so far point to Get Out being a great first effort for Peele, as early reviews have been almost uniformly positive.