3 out of 5
Directed by: Jordan Peele
…I guess this all just felt a little forced to me.
That one half of funnyman duo Key & Peele went on to craft a horror movie isn’t so much of a surprise: the frequent genre spoofs that popped up in the series showed an awareness and appreciation of the tropes, and I’d even say some of those genre sketches already mined the twist Get Out adds to its particular trope – that is, race stereotypes mixed into a Stepford Wives zombie town setup. Of course, at feature length, Peele can double down on all factors: digging into the filmmaking chops (also already demoed in the show’s high production quality and filmic style); upping the tension and scares; and smoothing out the laughs- to-commentary-to-story ratio to favor the latter-most above all, which was certainly the wisest decision for maintaining the movie’s general entertainment level throughout.
But in the same way that K&P sometimes seemed to stretch to make a dumb joke “smarter” by tossing race into the mix, Get Out’s blend never exactly syncs up with its concept, undermining the tension as you’re half-wondering what the end game is and then undermining the commentary when said end game turns out to really not have needed the social status skewing to work. That being said, there is a brilliant seed planted – taking advantage of all the unfortunate stereotypes involved with an upper-class white family’s response to their daughter’s black boyfriend and playing that up as an element of a paranoid thriller – but Peele takes a somewhat “friendly” approach to it (which happened on K & P also), making it easier to laugh at than to feel uncomfortable about it. And really, if he had twisted the discomfort knife, that would’ve made the turn into the horror elements – in terms of what’s really causing this family to act so strangely – much more effective.
The direction is quite confident, however, showing good framing instincts, although there are some overly stylistic pans that demanded a bit more meaning for their use, but nothing that suggests Peele wasn’t consciously trying to figure out how to appropriately jam all his interests into a cohesive picture. Toby Oliver’s cinematography is also appealing throughout, crisp and capable of handling the film’s various tones, and Michael Abels creepy score is definitely effective, but sort of underused.
Get Out isn’t exactly the big leap forward for Peele the glowing reviews had suggested: it’s very much in line with the limitations of Key & Peele, but it’s equal proof that the flashes of genius on that show can continue to find an outlet. And with the surprising polish shown in his first feature, assuming Jordan continues to evolve his craft, there should be some great things down the road.