Jordan Peele, formerly part of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele with Keegan-Michael Key, has stretched his legs with his first directorial effort and sauntered in the horror genre with Get Out.
Peele has made a film that's a social commentary on race relations in America, audacious in its execution and refreshingly intelligent in its take on the subject matter.
A break-out success in the U.S (it's currently made $115m on $4.5m budget), it's an impressive first effort from Peele.
The premise sees Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) visit his caucasian girlfriend's (Allison Williams) parents at her family's house for the weekend.
He's worried about how receptive they'll be to his being black but she casually bats his concerns away, and they set off on a series of strange encounters.
Navigating a maze of awkward interactions, the few black people he sees exhibit strange behaviour, leaving Chris thinking there's something more sinister going on.
To say more will likely invoke spoilers, but the twist – and there's always a twist – is genuinely loopy and you won't be able predict it (but feel free to guess).
More after the break
It's a wry take on the genre that explores the racism (casual or otherwise) a black person experiences, asking questions about race and racism, what it means to be black and what value that has.
The tone Peele maintains is effortless. It veers from unsettling (the stirring of tea) to strange, to surreal moments (a man running full-pelt in the middle of the night). That it's both funny and alarming in is a sign of the impressive balancing act Peele achieves.
Daniel Kaluuya puts a performance that's nicely calibrated between restraint and paranoia, unable to dispel the thought that something's amiss and he's the reason why. Alison Williams plays his caring girlfriend Rose Armitage, who acknowledges her parents try too hard and at the same time seems oblivious to Chris's treatment.
Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as her mom and dad both entertain. Whitford is chummy and bracing, spouting liberal-sounding quotes ("I would have voted for Obama a third time If I could"), which alarm Chris even more, while Keener appears nice - but there's a hostility about her that makes you wary.
Caleb Landry Jones plays Rose's 'physical' brother Jeremy and there's just a sense of uneasiness and potential for violence whenever he's on screen.
This is a film where the script and its characters have a depth that in other films is too often traded for cheap scares.
There's a lot we haven't mentioned, like Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel's performances as the 'Help' that start off as one thing and become something else altogether. Or LilRel Howery as Chris's friend Rod, who delivers many of the film's best lines.
The score, from Michael Abels, incorporates the traditional (strings and percussion) and a curious mix of Blues that's overlayed with dialogue spoken in Swahili. It's a slick-looking film too, with Peele managing to wrangle some inventive images from his limited budget.
Get Out is a refreshing horror/comedy that takes on a thorny subject and emerges with plenty to recommend it. Horror films can fall into a trap of excess, but there's a focus to Get Out as well as an intelligence in the way it goes about its business.
Get Out treats its audience with respect and knows how to get the required shocks and laughs, culminating in a last act that's so well done it'll have you cheering throughout.
It's a confident, accessible and deft effort that has you on its side from the beginning to the end. More of this please.