The Culture Movies

Comedian Jordan Peele's horror movie 'Get Out' draws praise for its take on race relations

The new film by Peele, who directed and wrote 'Get Out,' is being called 'perfectly tailored to our post-postracial moment' and 'almost certain to be the boldest – and most important – studio genre release of the year.' The movie stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams.

'Get Out' stars Allison Williams (l.) and David Kaluuya (r.).
Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures/AP
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Comedian Jordan Peele has found an unusual forum for discussion of race relations in America: a horror movie.

Mr. Peele, who starred in the Comedy Central series “Key & Peele,” directed and wrote the new movie “Get Out,” which opens on Feb. 24. The film, which is reminiscent of the 1967 classic "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?," stars Daniel Kaluuya of “Sicario” as Chris Washington, who goes with his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), to meet her parents. Yet all may not be as it seems. 

Peele told The Washington Post he was inspired to create the film when former President Barack Obama was running for office. 

“There was a sentiment that we had a black president now, so racism is over,” he said. “It even felt like President Obama couldn’t talk about race in a way that was satisfying.” “Get Out” came about from a sense “of knowing racism is still very much alive in this country, but that it was sort of being neglected as an issue,” he said. 

Peele said he also wanted to be very deliberate with his setting, putting the movie in New York. “It was really important for me to not have the villains in this film reflect the typical red state type who is usually categorized as being racist. It felt like that was too easy,” he said. “I wanted this film to explore the false sense of security one can have with the, sort of, New York liberal type.” He says he’s looking to have the movie serve as “a reference point as we forge into the difficult conversation about race.”

"Get Out," with its black protagonist, is also rare in horror movies, says Peele, who told the Associated Press of the genre, "there's this extreme lack of representation of black characters, black protagonists."

The movie is drawing various positive reviews, with Los Angeles Times writer Justin Chang writing that the film is “perfectly tailored to our post-postracial moment” and particularly praised the movie’s opening scene, in which a black man walks down a dark street in a wealthy neighborhood and being tailed as he does so. 

“The scene is a jolting piece of suspense craftsmanship and a clever dismantling of several decades’ worth of racist stereotypes: The black guy walking alone on a dark street, so routinely depicted as a figure of fear, menace and criminality, is here recast as a frightened, vulnerable innocent,” Mr. Chang writes. (However, he personally felt that the sequence “is so cleverly composed and effortlessly subversive that writer-director Jordan Peele never quite manages to top it.”) 

And though Indiewire writer David Ehrlich felt that “nothing in ‘Get Out’ is as scary as the things that inspired it,” he felt that the film is “almost certain to be the boldest – and most important – studio genre release of the year. What it lacks in fear, it nearly makes up for in fearlessness.”