Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) has a problem. His girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) wishes him to meet her parents, a wealthy couple who live out in the country on their own estate, and he is fearing the worst. To compound his discomfort, Rose has not told them Chris is African-American when she is white American, and he believes this is an unavoidable issue but she reassures him, yes, they will be a little obvious in their pandering towards him, trying to be right on and so forth, but overall they will be fine with him. He hopes she is correct, but driving there for the weekend his best friend Rod (LilRel Howrey) tells him over the phone he's making a mistake - then suddenly something hits the car.
Writer and director Jordan Peele made his debut as a film director with Get Out after a successful career as a comedian, yet was seeking to expand his range here. Yes, there were laughs to be had, but it was a horror movie first and foremost, no matter the excuses those who did not ordinarily like horrors made for it that it was not a "real" example because it was satire, or a socially conscious thriller, apparently unaware the genre had been tackling social and political issues for decades. Look at one of the movies Peele claimed for inspiration, George A. Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead, a groundbreaking work that starred Duane Jones, a rare black lead in a chiller at the time: a highly politically charged effort for all sorts of reasons.
Would Get Out be as influential as that? It was difficult to say as although the cliché had it that black characters in horror movies did not last until the end credits ordinarily, that was not always the case in practice, though the spectre of the films where it assuredly was the case in the nineteen-eighties was hard to shake. Peele told interviewers his target here was white liberal racism, a brave and unusual subject when most films dealing with prejudice would keep the liberals on their side and target the more overt, extreme right wing version, and though this was a big hit with audiences around the world, he received a lot of criticism for making a story where black was all good and white was all bad.
What those irritated by Get Out's commentary did not grasp was that Peele was half white himself, therefore you imagine knew precisely of which he spake, and that perspective was refreshing, if a shade heavy handed when there were not many horror movies which depicted black characters as demonic as the whites here. Then again, Peele was not taking aim at those, he was after a more insidious strain where the blacks were more subtly kept down, say as comic relief or the decent guy or girl who is purely present to make the white hero or heroine look better when they're nice to them. Where we went from this film pointing all that out, and indeed employing those tropes merely to shoot them down in flames, was up for debate, especially as there was a danger something as smart as this was going to be regarded as the exception rather than the rule of horrors.
It wasn't, of course, there were plenty of clever shockers, and because this was basically a variation on The Stepford Wives with racism replacing sexism in the agenda, did not indicate every time a film like this came along it was an aberration. Peele was careful to keep his cards close to his chest for the first hour of Get Out, and it was down to Kaluuya's watchful performance that we saw Rose's privileged world through Chris's increasingly suspicious eyes as he picks up on when he was being patronised and when something more sinister was occurring - we already know things are not as they seem because the pre-credits sequence had a black guy being grabbed off a night time street and dragged unconscious into a car. What is actually going one was nowhere near as subtle as the experiences of Chris initially demonstrated, making great play of the idea of white folks seeing black folks as a cultural force to be jealously appropriated, which didn't quite make sense other than as a punchline, but it was a good one in its bleakly comic fashion. No, no answers, but a feast of food for thought. Music by Michael Abels (supremely confident in his first soundtrack).