Comedian Jordan Peele of “Keanu” has made an auspicious directorial debut with “Get Out,” (***1/2 OUT OF ****), an intelligent, sophisticated, Neo-Blaxploitation, horror chiller with far fewer buckets of blood than a conventional Eli Roth splatter-fest like either “Hostel” or “Green Inferno.” Two-thirds a suspenseful psychological cat & mouse melodrama and one third a frightening foray into homicidal histronics, “Get Out” benefits from Peele’s admirable restraint and his levelheaded helming. Gradually, he peels back the layers of his “Twilight Zone” tale like an onion to reveal the alarming revelations that skulk at the soul of this sinister movie. Taking their cues from Mary Shelley’s Baron Victor Frankenstein, the white villains perpetuate racism like you have never experienced. Fortunately, Peele incorporates some welcome comic relief to lighten matters. Meantime, he maintains the tension throughout until he brings everything to a tantalizing boil, and this bizarre yarn erupts with violence. During its nimble running time of 103 minutes, Peele presents an enormous number of baffling details the significance of which seem evasive until everything culminates in a slam-bang ending guaranteed to surprise and mortify. Furthermore, apart from the dynamic Catherine Keener and hilarious stand-up comic Lil Rel Howery, Peele has assembled a thoroughly convincing cast of character actors who appreciate the subtlety of his low-key approach and mirror it with their straight-faced performances. Essentially, Peele has appropriated the two Hollywood classics “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967) and “The Stepford Wives” (1975) as the template for “Get Out!” A white female has been dating an African-American, and she decides to take him home to meet her mom and pop. Initially nervous about his forthcoming encounter with her liberal parents, the boyfriend discovers that nothing is what it appears. The solitary shortcoming of “Get Out!” that qualifies it as Neo-Blaxploitation is the conspicuous absence of any sympathetic white characters. Every Caucasian emerges as utterly repellent, while the African-Americans are saintly victims.
Twentysomething African-American photographer Chris Washington (British actor Daniel Kaluuya of “Welcome to the Punch”) has been dating his Caucasian sweetheart Rose Armitage (Allison Williams of “College Musical”) for almost five months. At this point in their budding relationship, Rose wants to introduce Chris to her parents at their remote country estate. Chris asks Rose if she has told Missy (Catherine Keener of “Captain Phillips”) and Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford of “Awakenings”) that he is African-American. Rose assures Chris that he need not concern himself about such trivial matters. She explains her father would have voted for Obama a third time. Later, after Chris has met the Armitages, Dean mentions that he would have voted a third time for Obama. Dean makes a buffoon of himself with his colorblind approach and his ludicrous use of boilerplate African-American slang. Rose’s parents embrace Chris as a future son-in-law, but he doesn’t feel comfortable around either their brawny African-American handyman, Walter (Marcus Henderson of “Whiplash”), or Georgina (Betty Gabriel of “The Purge: Election Year”), their absent-minded housekeeper. Missy explains that her parents hired Walter and Georgia to relieve them of the onerous tasks that old age had prevented them from performing. Chris interrupts Walter one afternoon while the latter is industriously chopping wood. Walter doesn’t use, Chris notices, customary African-American slang. Meantime, Chris feels like an object under scrutiny. Rose’s parents notice him drumming his fingers across the dining table at lunch. Reluctantly, Chris admits that he smokes cigarettes, but has been struggling to quit. Dean informs him that not only is Missy is an accomplished hypnotherapist, but that she can also cure him in a snap of her fingers. Chris learns that Dean is a neurosurgeon, too. During their conversation, Rose’s parents remind their daughter about their annual party that they are hosting for their friends during the weekend. Rose acts like she has completely forgotten about it. The last Armitage to arrive is Rose’s confrontational, half-witted brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones of “Contraband”) who wants to impress Chris with his Jujitsu tactics.
Chris roams around the Armitage estate clicking pictures. Georgina behaves awkwardly as she observes him from afar. Apart from a token Asian at the party, the Armitage guests are primarily affluent but elderly Caucasians. Incredibly, Chris spots an elderly woman accompanied by a slim, twentysomething African-American guy, Andrew Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield of “Straight Outta Compton”), who appears like a fish-out-0f-water. Stealthily, Chris snaps a photo of him with his cell phone. Unfortunately, the flash discombobulates King, and he shouts the words “Get Out” at Chris. Now more than ever, his curiosity fully aroused, Chris sends his best friend, Rod Williams (comedian Lil Rel Howery of “Get a Job”), the photo of King. A conspiracy theorist as well as TSA agent, Rod has suspected all along that Rose wants to turn Chris into a sex slave. Before he left with Rose, Chris entrusted Rod with the upkeep of his apartment back in the city and the care of his pet dog. Eventually, Missy corners Chris late one evening and hypnotizes him simply by stirring her coffee cup. Suddenly, and this is when things really get twisted, Chris finds himself plunging into the floor under Missy’s spell. As he drifts into what appears to be an abyss, Missy points out to Chris that he has entered “the sunken zone.” Afterward, nothing is the same for our paranoid protagonist who awakens the following dawn without the urge to ignite tobacco.
“Get Out” derives its title from the shouts audiences scream at horror movies when they urge either an individual or individuals on screen to get the Hades out of a hostile environment as the forces of horror converge like a spider poised to administer its death venom to its web-entangled quarry. Indeed, more is skulking ghoulishly behind the scenes in “Get Out” than the humble, unsuspecting Chris can imagine in his wildest dreams. Peele loosens all restraints during the final twenty minutes, and everything horrific is exposed. The Armitage clan amount to a bigoted bunch of butchers with more than lobotomy on their minds.