Get Out has quickly become a much-watched movie, and with damn good reason. Since its debut at Sundance, hype for it has been building up like a volcano, both because of its premise — in which an interracial couple are stuck in what’s basically Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? meets The Stepford Wives — and because it comes to us courtesy of one Jordan Peele.
To say that Peele and collaborator Keegan-Michael Key hit it big with their sketch show Key & Peele would be something of an understatement. They very quickly became sensations on both Comedy Central and online with their bizarre sense of topical humor. It’d be hard to find someone who doesn’t know at least one of their sketches, like the Substitute Teacher or the Theater Valets. Key & Peele quickly garnered awards and tons of fans, and became so popular that Key even reprised his role as Luther the Anger Translator at President Obama’s 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner. When the show ended in 2015 and the pair split off to do their own things, it seemed like a lock that they would both stick to comedy films.
And to be fair, they did for a while, with Key’s minor role in Tomorrowland, or his starring turn in last year’s excellent Keanu (in which Peele was a costar) and Don’t Think Twice. Peele followed suit with Angry Birds, Storks and Wet Hot American Summer. But now Peele has come along with Get Out.
But while horror film seems like a huge departure from what he and Key have spent the past three years doing, it’s actually more of a Key & Peele follow up than one would expect. (Key, to his credit, also isn’t sticking to comedy films, as he has a lead role in Shane Black’s Predator film due out next February.)
Let me be careful not to oversell this: Get Out is not in any way connected to the overall Key & Peele universe, if such a thing even really exists. It’s not like the film closes out with cutting to Key & Peele still driving down that seemingly endless road and talking about the first time they met a white girlfriend’s parents or Pussy on the Chainwax (that said, god, I wish the latter did happen).
Instead, it’s in things that some may just be content with labeling as mere callbacks, both subtle and direct. Some may remember Key & Peele’s TSA sketches when Chris’ friend Rod gets into a tirade about searching people. Or they’ll recall the sketch where white women talk about black men, during a montage where Chris meets friends of Rose’s family and things quickly veer from “subtly racist” to “oh dear lord, you need to stop talking immediately.” And others may think of the film as being an inversion of the comedy duo’s Negrotown sketch: Chris is in the opposite of an idyllic utopia where black people can live without constantly feeling like they’re in danger.
You may be thinking that if Get Out has callbacks to Key & Peele sketches, then there’s no reason that it couldn’t have been a five minute bit instead of two hours. Keanu was similar in that regard, it felt like a sketch that you could’ve easily inserted into any one of the five seasons of the show. Get Out, on the other hand, is a movie that only could’ve existed after Key & Peele had ran its course. If they had tried to put this out while the show was still around, it would still be great, but where it succeeds isn’t just in the timing, it’s in the execution and direction.
Key & Peele has never not been absurd, even during its most basic sketches. At its best, the show has always elevated its subject matter and taken take a path that you wouldn’t see coming, in sketches like such as A Capella, the Pre-Game Pump Up, or the Meegan and Andre series. Get Out follows the same basic structure as their sketches: It has a normal starting point which quickly escalates to comedy, and just when you think things have gotten crazy enough, they escalate to something even more absurd just to cap things off. This arc doesn’t always pay off in every Key & Peele sketch, every time. But Get Out’s escalation definitely feels earned by the time the credits roll. The movie works when it’s being funny, which is to be expected, but praise has to be paid to its horror as well.
Peele has said that being in comedy for so long has given him training for Get Out, and he’s also admitted to being a fan of the horror genre. He’s found that both comedy and horror share similarities when it comes to pacing and reveals, and given that he’s written all the episodes of Key & Peele, it’s easy to see how his first movie married the two genres so perfectly.
You can certainly what he means during the Halloween sketches of Key & Peele, where he’s clearly having more of a blast than usual, whether he’s playing a serial killer trying to fuck with the detective hunting him down or he’s the leader of a pack of “sexy” vampires. Even the non-Halloween episodes showcase how fun he can be when a sketch has some horror injected into it, both when he’s being the scared and the scary.
Key & Peele has also allowed him to play with versions of the different black characters in Get Out in some way or another already. It’s obvious that the film is something with his name on it from the way those characters interact with each other. When working on a comedy sketch show, you have to know when to cut the fat — Get Out feels like a movie that had little to no fat. Everything mentioned or referenced in the film is paid off by the time the credits roll.
Not recognizing the callbacks and references to old Key & Peele sketches won’t ruin Get Out for you, as it’s definitely a fantastic film that stands on its own. But if you’re someone who thought that it would be weird for an actor who’s been doing comedy for 15 years to suddenly up and make a racially charged horror film, you’ll be surprised. Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, and Jordan Peele has shown that that includes a show where old ladies get possessed by Satan while in church and a stoner decides to be steampunk for a day.