I have a very good reason for reviewing this now, when it hits home video, instead of when it was the movie-of-the-moment in theaters four months ago: I’m a coward. Despite having a taste for horror films, I rarely dare to tackle them blind on the big screen—although when it comes to jump-scares or gore, Get Out, the promising directing debut of sketch comedy artist Jordan Peele, is actually very mild by today’s standards. It aims more for creepiness and for the most underrated of horror movie qualities: actually being about something. The premise is something out of 2017 high-concept movie heaven: the film could be described both accurately and irresistibly as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? meets Rosemary’s Baby,” in which a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) gets taken to the country by his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her parents. Only, shortly after arriving, he begins to suspect that a sinister plot is afoot. The great coup of the first act is that it turns the welcoming smiles of upper-middle-class white liberals into something supremely off-putting—and I say that as one of them. (That’s the thing about white liberals; we can realize only too late, if at all, when we put somebody off without meaning to). It is not a simple or easy choice of target, and the film works so well because Peele approaches it first as a friendly, cheeky satirist, and then as an earnest horror buff who knows how to hit all the story beats.
As for satire, keep your eye out and grin at the little details, like horror cinema’s best use of lacrosse sticks and croquet balls. As for horror itself, the film builds to that genre sweet spot where the end has full license to go insane without betraying the beginning. On the contrary, the bizarro details fall into place. Williams is the wild card every conspiracy needs, and Kaluuya effectively communicates a character who, when placed in situations where he’s the only black man in sight, has long since been conditioned to not say what he’s really thinking. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling where it goes, except to say that the ending has been criticized as a copout to the crowd. Personally, I think it just comes along at a time and for an audience where pleasing the crowd and posing provocative questions are one and the same. (Without revealing too much, one of its most fascinating threads is how racial dominance isn’t exactly the primary motive of the villains’ plan; rather, an inherent sense of superiority and misunderstanding is simply baked into how they pursue other goals). The film is not without flaws. It could squeeze more tension from its middle hour, or find a better balance of tones between conspiracy and comic relief. But it is a thoughtful, resonant midnight movie, a weirdly funny but justifiably anxious political popcorn flick about the fear of losing yourself. This was the subject of Rosemary’s Baby too; not for nothing is the ultimate mastermind of Get Out named “Roman.” And if a man best known for sketch comedy seems a surprising choice to dive into the horror fray, consider that Peele understands that the secret weapon of Rosemary’s Baby, hiding in plain sight with every creepy smile, was always its mischievous sense of humor.
Get Out is available now on home video and for rental on Amazon/iTunes. Don’t hurt yourself by waiting for it to reach its SVOD window.