Before Jordan Peele’s Us shatters the sophomore slump, I had to revisit his breakout hit Get Out, likely the smartest and most lauded horror film this century. Get Out converts social unease regarding physical autonomy and rampant appropriation faced in the African-American community through Daniel Kaluuya’s complicated role as a young black man meeting his white girlfriend’s parents at their affluent suburban home. Increasingly uneasy as it crests the abduction attempt, Kaluuya has the hero role marked by a lived in horror of everyday life as a targeted minority and humorous, ultimately troublesome skepticism at the intentions of the white family. His performance during the hypnotism alone is mighty terrifying, his giant, watering eyes portray sheer terror rivaling any scream queens in cinematic history, but the easy humor, particularly bouncing off Lil Rel Howery’s vital friend role warning of the impending doom mistrusting this weekend trip, and natural chemistry he possesses with even the most unsettling of white party guests speaks volumes to his skill, leading to the uncommon Oscar nomination for a horror film.
Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Allison Williams all portray a very different kind of disconcerting friendliness–from Williams’ cop baiting to Whitford’s painful dad-jokes trying to make Kaluuya feel welcomed to Keener’s near emotionless corruption in the background–all of which leads to a realization Kaluuya knew was a historic possibility all along, but the trust we are supposed to have in people keeps that edge off suspicion that leads toward white curiosity at racial difference and barely covers the fear and hatred that develops bigotry and misunderstanding. As complex and brilliant as the entire film is, Betty Gabriel takes the prize for her killer performance as a housekeeper too prim and self-possessed to just be an odd maid. Her “no no no no no no” explanation with spilling tears will never stop creeping me out. Watch it again before or after Us comes out this weekend; it’s not terrifying with jumps or gore, but you will question appearances for years to come.
For my original review of this modern classic, check it here.