Horror parodies are seldom as funny, and never as scary, as fright-flicks that play their scares, er, straight. Jordan Peele — the shorter half of the 21st century’s funniest sketch-comedy duo — understands this, and that’s why Get Out, his debut feature as writer and director, is so truly, madly, mercilessly entertaining, even when it makes you want to jump out of your skin. It is small-c catholic in its tastes, liberally sampling elements of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Rosemary’s Baby and Invasion of the Body Snatchers before morphing into the most potent racial revenge fantasy since Django Unchained. But a parody it’s not: It’s as gnarly as Green Room, 2016’s nerviest thriller, whose villains wore their bigotry on their tattooed arms. What makes Get Out stand out is that its social critique — usually present in the horror-survival genre as subtext — is very much its text.
That’s a writing trick Peele and his creative partner, Keegan-Michael Key, used over and over again through five seasons of their marvelous Comedy Central series, one that boasted production values that stood head and shoulders above anything else in sketch TV. Key & Peele’s movie sendups looked like real movies, and now we have a good idea why: Peele is a world-class filmmaker. (Nearly all Key & Peele episodes were directed by Peter Atencio, who also directed the two comics in last year’s Keanu. That was a funny movie, but it had nothing like the invention, the intensity or the shimmering, righteous anger that Get Out possesses.) His movie is as much a triumph of craft as of inspiration.
Photo: Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures