If funny is your frame of reference for Jordan Peele, you may find yourself stunned by his directorial debut, Get Out.
The Comedy Central alum who brought us such memorable Key & Peele characters as the eternally peeved Becky, Meegan or a staid anger translator-aided President Barack Obama mines deeply dark material in this film that could be described as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner gone hideously wrong. The terror begins when a nervous Chris, played by Black Mirror and Sicario standout Daniel Kaluuya, accompanies his White girlfriend home to meet the family. It isn’t long until he is put off by her parents’ odd race-baiting comments, the unmistakable Stepford Wives-style behavior of fellow Blacks in the community and ominous warnings about missing skinfolk as voiced by his best friend-slash-voice of reason Rob (Lil Rel Howery).
Still, with the collaboration of so many jokesters, including Howery, Peele and Atlanta standout Keith Stanfield, some in the socialsphere are musing about whether it is really a dark comedy as opposed to a horror film.
Don’t be so sure you’ll be LOLing, Kaluuya warns.
“There are a lot of funny moments, but there are also bits that will scare the shit out of you,” the British transplant insists. “It captures the fear you feel being a Black man in America. It’s this paranoia, and [you] wonder what people are saying and feeling about you.”
Peele underscores his determination to create chills versus chuckles. The director explains that he has long been influenced by terror virtuosos, including Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick.
“This has always been a dream of mine,” Peele shares. “Horror is my favorite genre, but I had sort of given up on the idea of making a thriller as my comedy career progressed. A few years ago, I began to draw a lot more links between comedy and horror. They are both about taking an absurd notion and grounding it. The difference is, in comedy you’re trying to get laughs, and with horror, you’re trying to get screams.”
Interwoven within these scares is a social message not unlike the eerily Black Lives Matteresque conclusion of the original Night of the Living Dead (1968).
Strangely, there haven’t been many more Black horror leads since Duane Jones’ empowering then tragic turn in that classic. Kaluuya is especially proud to be one of the few.
“This is quite cool,” the actor gushes about his role. “It’s exciting; you can feel the responsibility of it.”
His co-star is more pragmatic.
“In this one, the Black people ain’t dead by the beginning credits,” Howery says with a laugh. “And I think if you see that, you’ll be cheering it on.”Maybe not everyone will be saluting thescreen. Audience reaction might mirror society’s perceptions of race: skewed severely by the skin you’re in.
“I have White friends who saw the movie, and it’s interesting because they had a different fear,” Howery offers. “That’s what makes this movie unique, and ain’t nobody Black no punk in this movie. Some White people are scared of us. The biggest thing some of those Trump supporters are scared of is us standing up for ourselves. And you see that in this movie.”
Regardless, the film—due in theaters on Feb. 24—will prove to be thought-provoking, cast members tell EBONY. Those who voted to “make America great again” may want to take heed of the hidden message, particularly given our volatile racial climate.
“It’s a very scary and interesting time,” Peele says, referencing the current presidential administration. “There are a lot of sentiments that have been hidden for a while that are now out there again and have platforms and a sort of confidence behind them. At the end of the day, my philosophy is that art that fosters communication of any kind is the only weapon we have against violence. People are free to not enjoy the movie, but I really hope that it helps spur discussion."