Like ‘Parasite’ Jordan Peele’s horrifying ‘Get Out’ delivers reel thrills
As we learn with “Parasite,” families that function can be as unusual as films about families that get the chills just right.
The Oscar-winning thriller “Get Out,” from 2017, begins with a haunting, perfectly executed cold open. A young black man walks down the street of a suburban neighborhood. He’s talking on his phone, everything seems fine. The streets are well-lit; the homes and hedges look inviting.
But this is a thriller where there’s always something sinister lurking behind the seemingly placid surface. Soon a menacing white sports car starts stalking him. I won’t spoil his fate, but you can read between the lines. It’s not only a chilling sequence, it’s also one with familiar ripples.
Writer/director Jordan Peele, better known as half of the erstwhile comedy duo Key and Peele, has constructed a social thriller that delivers twists and satisfying scares, but has bigger ideas on its mind. Peele embraces the spirit of the great paranoia thrillers of the 1970s - “Get Out” feels particularly in dialogue with “The Stepford Wives” and “Rosemary’s Baby” - to comment on race in America. The sinister conspiracy at the core of “Get Out” is scary, but what it acts as a metaphor for is far more frightening.
The setup is simple. Rose (Allison Williams, perfectly cast and confidently stretching beyond her “Girls” persona) brings home her boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya from “Sicario”) to meet her parents. Rose is white and Chris is black, so the whole thing is very “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Rose assures Chris that her parents are open-minded liberals, and at the outset, everything seems normal. Missy (Catherine Keener, from (“Being John Malkovich,” always a welcome presence) comes off as a warm earth mother and Dean (Bradley Whitford, from “The West Wing,” and a pro at playing smarmy) seems harmless if effusive about his stance on equality (“I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could,” he boasts to Chris). But this is a film about surfaces and what lurks beneath them and, pretty soon, we realize something is off.
It’s that moment - when the audience secures its ultimate clue - that makes any psychological thriller feel complete. Because we may figure out what will happen before the characters on screen, we can only hope they get smart soon enough to avoid an inevitable conclusion. But that might not be as much fun at the movies. And we go to thrillers because they are fun.
To share any more of the plot would rob you of the great pleasure of watching it unfold. Suffice to say, all is not what it seems, and the film’s title is apt. And, as we have seen in the past year, its impact reaches beyond the thrills on screen.
“Get Out” is Rated R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references. The film runs 1 hour, 44 minutes.