Jordan Peele's Get Out is the most trenchant studio release in years, a slow-building, often hilarious horror thriller built upon a dead-serious idea: that a black man walking alone through white suburbs is in as much danger as any slasher-flick teenager.
Peele's playing with fire here, and I mean playing in the best sense of the word. He's half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, who have always in their sketches glanced lightly against hard truths. Horror and comedy both turn on gags, and Peele demonstrates a fluid facility with both kinds, which often in Get Out aren't distinct from each other at all. The story finds Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young black photographer, venturing into that same suburb from the opening, this time to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams).
What he encounters, at first, could be a straight-faced sketch about well-heeled-but-sheltered white liberals. In a comedy, these incidents might each prick a laugh and then pass, helped along by jaunty music and the genre's dependence on redemptive narrative arcs -- we'll be cued that these people still mean well. Here, each slight stings and lingers, Peele's comic mind weaponized. Each gag joke is simultaneously a send-up of white cluelessness, an evocation of the pain and humiliation of being viewed only as a body and a clue in the twisty, satisfying mystery of what's really going on in Rose's suburb.
And something is going on, of course. The buildup to the big revelations can be uneven, but at the screening I attended the mixed-race crowd cheered the bloody third act, the violence -- like its victims -- all stirringly well executed.