I attended Universal Pictures' free screening of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out – a film that finds the horror in casual racism – last Thursday at Century 12 Evanston. Peele's film satirizes the everyday slights that even the most "woke" white people inflict on people of color by turning microaggressions into the predatory acts of horror movie villains. The beginning of the film combines horror and subtle satire effectively, even if the horror never rise above what you would find in a conventional horror movie. However, jarring tonal shifts in the climax give way to a weak conclusion.Peele is best known for his work with the sketch comedy show Key and Peele, a show that regularly skewers the awkward social situations that African Americans find themselves in. His eye for comedy comes in handy to set up the world of Get Out. Daniel Kaluuya, known for work inSicario, plays Chris, a Black man going on a trip to meet his white girlfriend Rose’s (played by Alison Williams) family. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford play the parents as well-meaning liberals who would have voted for Obama if he could ran for a third term. But, there is a menace to their casually insensitive comments to Chris. That menace builds as Chris meets other members of this strange community that his girlfriend has dragged him into. Peele uses horror tropes to delve into issues such as code shifting, racially biased policing and fetishization of Black people in order for a white audience to understand the constant fear that people of color live with in their daily lives.
Most of the time, the satire is on point. The movie combines exaggerated scenes of awkward encounters between people of different races with more subtle lines of dialogue to build a metaphor for implicit racism, which becomes more layered the more you think about it after the end credits. The film pairs that commentary with great cinematography to add to a wonderful opening scene that combines horror with the anxiety Black men face when they enter the suburbs. These factors make for a strong first half.
However, horror fans will not find many original scares. The film mostly relies on jump scares with sudden music cues to rattle the audience. Some dialogue comes off as cheesy, without any indication that Peele intended it to be.
These issues get worse in a climax that ditches understated subtext for explaining what exactly is going on in the movie. The balance between comedy and horror also disintegrates as a supporting character who is away from the main conflict takes up most of the comedic duties, while the main cast is left to act out a typical horror finale that mostly ditches the satire. The jokes land in last third of the movie, but the tone becomes inconsistent and the transitions between the different plots are unnatural.
I do believe that Get Out has a strong beginning and makes pointed jabs at racist attitudes. However, I watched the film with the worst audience I've ever experienced, which likely hurt my enjoyment of the film, and I feel a bit of shame for my school after seeing the rudeness that was on display. The crowd constantly yelled at the screen and talked over important dialogue, much to the detriment of my ability to understand the movie. I could not appreciate many aspects of the film until after it ended because of the background noise.
I would still recommend Get Out for its clever treatment of contentious topics and expert cinematography. While the movie suffers tonal issues in the final act, and the scares will not rattle a horror buff, the courage to take on racism in such a unique way should be lauded. I just hope you have a better viewer experience than I did.
Get Out will be released in theaters nationwide Feb. 24.