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‘Get Out’ taps into socially relevant fear

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Williams and Kaluuya endure the racial tension.

Three and a half stars

Get Out Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford. Directed by Jordan Peele. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.

As half of the comedy duo Key and Peele, Jordan Peele is known for humor that deals directly with issues of race and class, and he channels that social commentary into Get Out, his impressive feature debut as a writer-director. Although it features a substantial amount of humor, Get Out isn’t primarily a comedy, and its dark, sometimes gruesome horrors mark a significant departure for Peele’s work. It’s also a mostly successful departure, and if Get Out is the launch of Peele’s career as a horror filmmaker, he’s off to a good start.

Taking its cue from classic socially conscious horror movies like Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, Get Out follows Brooklyn-based photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Girls’ Allison Williams) to Rose’s childhood home in a secluded, wealthy, nearly all-white suburb, where Chris, who’s black, is meeting Rose’s family for the first time. The first half-hour focuses on the casual racism, as Rose’s seemingly well-meaning family (parents played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, brother played by Caleb Landry Jones) exhibit insensitive but not overtly racist behavior.

But even as Chris brushes off the kind of treatment he experiences all too often, clearly something more sinister than racial obliviousness is afoot. Peele doesn’t handle the transition into outright horror entirely smoothly, and the explanation for the family’s true motives is a bit confusing. But the setting is undeniably creepy, and Peele plays up the tensions between Chris’ desire to fit in and his growing feeling that something is seriously wrong. The movie never lectures the audience, but like many of the best horror movies, it provides a grotesque exaggeration to highlight very real social problems, and manages to produce some genuine scares along the way.

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