Like most horror fans, I had no idea what to make of Get Out when I saw the trailer last year. Clips of stereotypical horror flashed across the screen, but with an underlying premise so over-the-top it seemed laughable. And then I saw comedian Jordan Peele’s name and I think ok, this must be a comedy, right? A spoof? Nope. Sure, it has its laugh-out-loud moments, but Get Out proves to be a genre-rending, racial-assumption-suspending, star-packed backbend of a film that takes some major risks and reaps some major rewards. Simply put, it’s brilliant.

Get Out opens as Chris and Rose are preparing for a trip from the big city to forested white suburbia to meet Rose’s family. Chris is trying to tease out how Rose thinks her parents will manage the fact that he is black and she is white, but she brushes off his concerns and they begin their drive. After hitting a deer and having a run-in with the cops, it becomes clear even before the protagonists reach their destination that this film will tackle complex issues of race with nimble ease, subtle genius, and pointed humor. This is gonna be good.

When they arrive, Rose’s parents seem normal enough, if not a little awkward about the whole skin color “thang,” but Chris manages the discomfort with polite tact. However, a deep sense of unease is brewing. The black groundskeeper and maid don’t seem quite right, Rose’s mom weirdly offers to hypnotize Chris, and Rose’s brother is downright hostile.

It isn’t until the family throws a giant party inviting in their oldest, stuffiest, and most stereotypically white acquaintances that we discover something much more sinister is brewing. We learn just who to trust, who to want to stab in the throat with a pair of antlers (natch, it is a horror film, remember) and who can be relied on to provide some shout-out-loud moments of satisfaction.

Why do I love this film so much? The list is long, but let me slice off a few reasons from the top. First, the performances are fantastic—frankly, so artful that I hadn’t even thought of them once during the film. Skillfully stuttering through an awkward response to a flat-out racist comment at one moment and producing streaming tears the next requires range that only some of the best can manage (Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, and Betty Gabriel especially soar).

Second, it’s hilarious. From perfectly uneasy grimace-inducing jokes, to welcome belly laughs that cut through the tension (thank you, LilRel Howery), Get Out pushes the boundaries of the one-size-fits-all hilarity we usually see in thrillers, and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Third—and this is my favorite—Peele tackles both subtle and in-your-face issues of race and class with a level of mastery I guarantee will be studied by race and film scholars alike. He puts every single viewer squarely into Chris’s shoes, flattening the racial landscape for the whole audience. People who already identify with Chris’s experience in their daily lives have the satisfaction of someone finally telling it just right, while those of us with less direct experience get a small glimpse of what it must be like. But where Peele really takes a risk is how he laces every awkward white man’s comment about their vote for President Obama, their love for Tiger Woods, or their admiration for Chris’s physique, with a level of insidious horror that forces everyone to pause ever so briefly to rethink how we talk and even think about race.

Get Out brings subtle racism and inherent bias to life and slaps you in the face with it—but then it immediately backs off, telling you hey, everything’s okay, don’t take it too seriously, it’s just a horror movie. Oh, and here’s a joke to prove to you that we are totally fine. The end result? The whole audience walks away feeling everything from a twinge of guilt, to a bit more aware of ourselves, to completely satisfied by a well-done thriller, to utterly impressed by the success with which Peele rejects every moviemaking stereotype and truly creates something dazzlingly unique.

SpecialK Verdict: Take everything you assume about, well, pretty much everything, then throw it out the window and surrender yourself to something totally new in this roller coaster ride of a film.  

Get Out opened February 24. 

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