“Get Out” has done the seemingly impossible.
The new movie—a February horror flick released two days before the Oscars—currently holds a 100% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes with more than 125 positive reviews.
“It makes us a little bit nervous because it just feels too good to be true,” the film’s star Allison Williams told me during an interview earlier this week. “But it is really good and we’re really proud of it.”
While the film’s critical praise comes as somewhat of a surprise, maybe it shouldn’t. After all, it’s written and directed by Jordan Peele, one-half of the creative geniuses behind the former Comedy Central series “Key & Peele,” and produced by Blumhouse, the company that brought us “Paranormal Activity,” “The Purge” and M. Night Shyamalan’s recent hit “Split.” And, well, it looks freakin’ creepy.
“Get Out” follows a young interracial couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Williams), on their first weekend trip to visit her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener). The already nerve-wracking relationship milestone is compounded, at least in Chris’ eyes, by the fact that she hasn’t told her folks that he is black.
Upon arrival, Chris is taken aback by their overly welcoming and friendly demeanor, but brushes it off as aggressive attempts to accept their daughter’s relationship. As the weekend progresses, however, a series of strange occurrences hints at something more sinister at play in the sleepy suburbs.
For more on “Get Out,” check out my full interview with Kaluuya (“Johnny English Reborn”) and Williams (“Girls”) below:
David Onda: It’s difficult to identify exactly which genre “Get Out” lives in—it’s a thriller, a horror film and a social commentary with elements of humor. How would you describe this film to people?
Daniel Kaluuya: It’s kind of like a psychological social thriller, and I think it’s given a horror bracket because of Blumhouse and a lot of other things. It’s about this couple who falls in love and he has to go meet her parents and he has anxiety because of the race issue, and he realizes that race is an issue and interracial relationships are still an issue in this day and age.
Allison Williams: And I think the confusion about the comedy comes from the fact that it’s Jordan Peele, and there are moments of levity, but they only exist to disrupt the feeling of fear and anxiety. It’s not a comedy, it’s not a horror spoof, it’s a straight horror movie—well, thriller. Yeah, it’s been very hard to describe, which is part of why I’m so anxious.
Onda: And what’s interesting about the film is that many of the horror elements, the tension and the scares are derived from moments that shouldn’t be scary, like a man walking down a suburban sidewalk.
Kaluuya: If you’re a black man, it is! It’s quite different as a black man. And there’s an interesting point in the film where Rose is taking Chris to see her family, she’s seeing the world through his eyes and realizing all these things that you wouldn’t notice that are things. So walking down the street is a normal experience, but if you’re a black man, you’re scared for your life at times and, also, you intimidate other people by just existing. Just existing is another layer of s—t you have to deal with.
Williams: I think having racism as a chief source of horror is such an astute and apt thing for Jordan to do, because I can think of few things more horrifying than racism and the behavior that results from it. I think a lot of the movie works for white audiences as a way of allowing them to relate to a black protagonist and to experience a theater full of people that respond very differently to something like a black guy walking alone through a suburban neighborhood and a car behind him. If that were a white character, it might be less menacing. It might be a different scene.
Onda: Daniel, the situations you’re put in in this film are frightening and unsettling. Although you’re only acting, was it every uncomfortable for you as a black man to perform in these scenes and situations?
Kaluuya: Uh, it was kind of distressing at times, but I thought it was the more mundane scenes, like at the party when you’ve got that feeling of being at a place and you’re getting reduced to the color of your skin. It’s just such an arbitrary feature to kind of zone in on. It was that. I was like, “This is really uncomfortable.” It made me explore something in me in the sense that there are more vicious forms of racism. It’s the same disease, but these are symptoms of it and that makes you uncomfortable. They’re trying to be nice, they’re trying to be welcoming, but that kind of conflict I found really quite hard to navigate. And then there were scenes where we shot where I was like, “Oh, man, Jordan. You’re really taking it there.”
Onda: Allison, this is very unlike anything you’ve ever done. Aside from that, why was this a project that really spoke to you?
Williams: I liked the idea of doing this because I wanted my first experience doing a movie [to be] as happy and creatively fulfilling as it has been to do “Girls” all these years and it was to do “Peter Pan.” I’ve been really spoiled and I’ve had the opportunity to wait for the right thing to come along, so not only was I waiting for something where I’d be working with creative people that I really respected, but I also wanted to do something that felt significant on a greater level and would spark conversation and hopefully a little controversy. I agree with Jordan that I think this may be the best way to get people to talk about race, because either they’re too uncomfortable to talk about it or they’re just not interested in it at all. It just was really obvious to me the minute I read the script that I wanted to do it. I’m just so thrilled that Jordan asked me to do it.
Onda: Speaking of Jordan, it’s his film directorial debut. Can you tell me a little bit about his leadership and what he brings to the set as a director?
Kaluuya: He’s just so collaborative. He’s open, yet he’s got the vision, which is quite rare to have both. Sometimes people who have a vision are really stuck on a certain idea, but he’s still malleable enough to listen to us and be open to our suggestions and use our suggestions. A lot of the scenes that me and Allison did were all made up two seconds before, and it’s always quite exciting to see on the screen because it’s alive. Jordan gave us space because we trusted his boundaries in terms of his script and it allowed us to expand on that and let the scenes grow. He’s just so collaborative.
Williams: The other nice thing is that, I could have easily pictured a scenario where, with a first-time director, you feel a little bit nervous and you didn’t know who was in charge and like you needed a grown-up there. But with Jordan, from the beginning, we felt like he was in such command of everything that was happening—and especially proving that point was the fact that, if he didn’t know something, he would just ask. There’s something so confident about being able to defer to somebody else when you need to know the answer to something. I remember that it was kind of the way Lena [Dunham] was when she first started, and she continues to be really collaborative and I assume that Jordan will be, too. I’m becoming very spoiled in terms of working with writer-directors. It’s so nice to have one source for answers.
Onda: So many people can relate to meeting a significant other’s parents—certainly not to the extent of what Chris and Rose endure—but do either of you have horror stories about meeting a significant other’s family?
Kaluuya: I have one. Basically, my ex-girlfriend’s dad showed up to a play that we went to, unannounced, and told her to go home. He was just waiting outside for us. He didn’t say hello to me—he didn’t know it was a date, he found out, drove to the theater, picked her up and said, “Get in the car.” And that was it. I never really talked to him again.
Williams: So scary. Not scary, just kind of menacing and weird.
Onda: What did he have against you?
Kaluuya: I think it was about controlling his daughter. A lot of dads are like that. They just don’t want their daughters to grow up, and I think he just wasn’t comfortable with the fact that his daughter was probably having sex. This happened when we were like 17 or 18.
Williams: I really don’t have any stories like this, which is surprising to people because they assume my dad [news anchor Brian Williams] would be really intimidating or terrifying. The scariest thing he does with any of my ex-boyfriends is that he just wouldn’t really make eye-contact with them, which is actually, in a way, very intimidating. It wasn’t like he was doing something, it was the absence of doing something.
Kaluuya: Why did he do that?
Williams: I don’t know. Maybe it’s a power move. Like, he won’t meet your eyes. He just wouldn’t look at them. With my now husband, he immediately was engaged. From the first night we had dinner together, he liked him.
“Get Out” is in theaters everywhere now. Click here for more information or to order tickets through Fandango.