'Get Out' combines horror and racial commentary for a box office hit

Director Jordan Peele poses with artwork based off his new hit film "Get Out." (Image via getoutfilm.com)

Meeting the parents is a stressful situation. You are trying to impress them, while trying to be yourself, and it rarely leads to a smooth first impression. If you are a black man meeting a family of racist psychopaths, things could be even trickier according to writer and director Jordan Peele’s debut film “Get Out.”

Jordan Peele, one half of the comedy duo “Key and Peele,” describes his movie as a “social thriller,” as it combines both horror and sharp racial commentary to a situation seen in countless movies.

“Get Out” unexpectedly opened as the No. 1 movie in America last weekend and has already grossed almost $60 million from its modest $4.5 million budget, according to boxofficemojo.com. The movie also received a 99 percent approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Peele is the true breakout star from the year’s first surprise box-office hit. The opening scene of the film, which depicts a helpless black man walking through suburbia at night, is an inversion of the white person in the “wrong neighborhood” trope and establishes the racial tensions of the film, while showcasing the director’s ability to shoot terrifying sequences.

As the story progresses and Chris meets the world his girlfriend grew up in, the scares turn from the classic horror of the first scene (reminiscent of John Carpenter’s “Halloween”), to a subtle eeriness that builds over most of the 105-minute run-time.

Chris’ girlfriend Rose, played by Allison Williams, is the oldest daughter in an elite, northeastern family of learned doctors. Cracks in her family begin to be seen almost immediately, as they unsuccessfully attempt to talk about race normally.

Peele uses the racial tension at the heart of this movie as the basis of the horror. A great scene between Chris and a black servant, Georgina, builds a sense of dread about the dark secret at the heart of this “perfect” town. The scares here are below the surface and erupt in a truly insane finale.

This film is clearly informed by America’s current racial climate. It is impossible to watch this movie without the death of Trayvon Martin or the unrest in Ferguson in the back of your head, but the beginning of this project was long before those events as Jordan Peele told the Guardian, “The genesis for the film was when Obama was elected and there was this sentiment that we can stop talking about race now because we’ve just solved the problem.” The ending presents a troublesome moral position on these issues, but is too damn entertaining not to enjoy. Recent films regarding race relations, such as “13th” and “I am not Your Negro,” give further perspective into today’s racial environment.

“Get Out” is an early hit from Jordan Peele, who has proven himself able to expertly toe the line between social commentary and genre filmmaking. This is a film inextricably linked to America’s current social climate and the violent potential at the heart of racism.


Teddy Craven is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.craven_jr@uconn.edu.