Picture this: A Black man and White his girlfriend are driving down a winding road on a lazy afternoon enjoying a beautiful day when something causes them to swerve off the highway. A cop shows up and, after a quick investigation, the woman explains she was the driver. Instead of asking her what happened, the cop asks for the passenger’s driver’s license—not identification—driver’s license. The woman reiterates that she was the one driving, not her boyfriend, but the officer insists he needs to see her boyfriend’s license.
The scene would make anyone nervous, but in today’s tense racial climate, the incident is downright frightening. It’s also just one of the many uncomfortably intriguing scenes in Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out.
The writer, one half of the comedy duo Key and Peele, wanted the first film he wrote and directed to be a horror movie, his favorite genre. And while Get Out, which is already a critic’s favorite, perfectly nestles itself into the thriller/horror category—with plenty of breathtaking moments; eye covering, heart pounding scenes; and just the right amount of blood and gore—it tackles a bigger, scarier issue in the most creative and intelligent way.
“I wrote this movie to address the racism that wasn’t being talked about,” Peele told EBONY.
“The germs of this movie started eight years ago. I was thinking about how we were in this post-racial lie. We weren’t supposed to talk about race, it’ was kind of like no no no no, don’t even bring it up, we got a Black president. So that’s where this idea came from,” he explained. “[It] was to say there’s a monster lurking underneath this country. And even though you don’t always see it, it’s there, and lot of us know it’s there.”
In Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya, who’ll appear in the highly anticipated Black Panther film next, stars as Chris, a young man who is planning a trip with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her parents. He’s a bit apprehensive because she, a White woman, hasn’t told her folks that her boyfriend is Black. If you’re old enough, or well versed in Sidney Poitier’s film repertoire, then you might be thinking Peele is riffing off of the 1967 classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but this time around it’s more like guess who might be dinner.
Things start off strange right away when Rose’s parents, the Armitages, are more interested in Chris’ Blackness than Chris himself. And when the family’s maid and groundskeeper, who are both African-American, come off like the Stepford Blacks instead of real people, Chris becomes extremely leery.
From that point on, hold onto your seats!
Kaluuya said when he read the script, he didn’t know what to think, but he knew he had to be part of it.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he admitted. “I was like, can you do this? Or I didn’t know you can, but if you can I’m IN.”
When it comes to horror films, it’s no secret that Black folks don’t mess around. We don’t investigate suspicious noises, and if something doesn’t seem right, we leave. For all the times that you’ve watched a scary movie and said, “if this happened I would have done that” you’re in luck. Chris, along with the help of his funny-as-hell buddy Rod (played by Lil Rel Howery) do everything you’d expect Black folks to do in this situation. Yet, in all the fun, weaving in a social message is where Peele shines.
Erika Alexander, whom Peele personally requested to appear, said the director was able to infuse meaning into the thriller perfectly.
“I’ve always thought that African-Americans were the moral compass of this nation,” the Living Single and Queen Sugar actress explained. “Whenever we speak out and whenever we pinpoint something that’s discriminatory or needs unearthing it usually comes from the darkest point of the planet, which happens to be African-Americans believe it or not.”
Alexander continued, “We’re in a unique position to be in a first world country and often living a third world life. So we have to make sure that we not only support these types of films – but also tell people who make these films that it’s relevant and that our opinions and our point of view is not only relevant it’s needed and it’s necessary and it is not off stream, it’s mainstream.”
Bradley Whitford, who plays Dean Armitage in the film, praised the director’s storytelling abilities.
“I can tell you when we made this – he didn’t write this knowing where we’d be politically and socially. Now but I think it’s even poignant. And what’s interesting to me and what I love about it is it’s a horror movie but it’s not about overt idiotic racism, which we can all spot,” he said. “It’s about a much more difficult question about how we deal with race and that’s where I think he gets really brilliant. And he packages it in this rip-roaring crazy piece of entertainment.”
The truth of the matter is that racism, at it purest and ugliest form, actually is downright scary. By diving into such issues, Peele is heeding the call of his peers and fans—many who feel entertainers should use their talents, platform and access to address the social ills in America.
“At the end of the day, this is all fun and glamorous and it’s a joy and an honor, but you have to speak out against evil when you see it and this is an administration that takes advantage of fear,” he said.
While Get Out is a horror film that will scare you, the irony is that its writer, director and star are fearless when it comes to exposing racism.
“Racism is just mainstream now. And racism is always here and has always been here.” Kaluuya explained. “So it’s like now with the guy in power people are just honest about it. So it’s exciting that this is the probably most racially visceral time for a long time that this film’s coming out. And you know… that’s pissed people off. I’m here. I’m ready. I’m not scared of anyone.”
Check out a hilarious clip of Jordan Peele’s impersonations of celebrities reacting to Get Out.
Get Out is in theaters nationwide.