Jordan Peele directing a horror movie, huh? Who knew!
I was shown the trailer for this in the parking lot of a dingy grocery store on a dirty phone screen and I was sold from that moment on. This looked taught, terrifying, weird, and uncomfortable to watch. Turns out it was all of those things but terrifying. Peele’s debut as a film director/writer/auteur is impressive on a lot of levels but perhaps its greatest strength lies in the surprising amount of comedic intensity from the performances and plot structure.
Jordan Peele, for those who don’t know due to “under-a-rock” living conditions, was a writer and sketch comedian with partner Keegan Michael Key for their series Key & Peele. The show ran for several seasons and was known for jokes and scenarios that poked fun, and not so gently, at race relations or stereotypes as well as other situations such as romantic relationships, sports, and music trends. They struck a chord and became a hit, dominating YouTube and Comedy Central.
This comes through in Peele’s debut film, a story about subtle and not-so-subtle racism that is told as a tight but hilarious thriller. Daniel Kaluuya was impressive in the hilariously dark episode of Black Mirror, titled “Fifteen Million Merits,” and he continues this trend here. He is awkward, intense, and manages to sell himself as a standoffish character with inner struggle as well as exterior reality. Everyone saw that moment in the trailer, where he sits in the chair with tears just pouring from his eyes and a look of horror on his face, and it works even better in the film as a moment for character.
Equally impressive is, oddly enough, Lil Rel Howery. While they might have put a shirt on him that says “comic relief,” the character works really well and gets to be more than just the gag-man. I was thoroughly impressed by not only his ability to constantly leave me cracking up but also the fact that they went for more than funny, low-hanging fruit. He’s smart, he’s quick, and he gets to serve as an important piece of the story.
There isn’t really a bad performance in this, from Allison Williams’s as Rose Armitage to her father Dean, played by Bradley Whitford. They just don’t stand out as much as the other two do and that says something about those performances, their ability to really stand out in a film full of solid work.
The music in this is absolutely wonderful,as is the sound design. Early in the film there is a moment where the action is blurred into the music playing in the background, which is then perfectly slid back out. This is an early example of things to come later, a great moment where score, soundtrack, and their interaction with the film work in tandem to sucker you in. The whole moment reminds me strongly of John Carpenter or Wes Craven, who Jordan Peele has clearly studied. This is one soundtrack that will be on playlists for the rest of the year, popping back up to remind us of just how wonderful this debut was.
Guys and gals, you really should go see this. Get Out is tight, menacing, hilarious, and outstanding for a first film. Those who loved Key & Peele are probably already sold but I have to tell you that this feels like a natural evolution of some of their sketches, a darkly comedic story of race and deception. It’s early in the year and with so many awesome things on the horizon and the Oscars this evening we have a lot to distract us, but do yourself a favor and make time to get out and watch this first film from a new name to watch in horror/thriller.