Stepford Wives was an inspiration for Peele when fleshing out Get Out's larger themes. "The way [Stepford Wives] dealt with the social issues in regards to gender, that's proof you can pull off a movie about race that's a thriller that's entertainment, that's fun -- a wild ride."
"Wild" is where five seasons of searing sketch comedy come in handy. When Get Out isn't delivering nightmares of predatory hypnosis and entrapment, it's goofing off. Chris's first late-night walk through the Armitage manor is punctuated by screeching-to-the-point-of-parody jump scares and an appearance by the zombified maid, whose ear-to-ear grin looks like Marie Osmond playing The Joker. During a lawn party with the upper crust, Chris encounters more boorish praise ("black is so in right now") and an old friend, played by Lakeith Stanfield, who now dresses like a barbershop quartet tenor and dates a white woman twice his age. Comedian Lil Rel Howery provides literal comedy relief as Chris's best friend, a TSA agent who is certain the weekend trip is one big ploy to turn Chris into a sex slave. His only evidence: Jeffrey Dahmer's bedroom habits.
Get Out churned in Peele's brain for years, and it shows. Unlike so many horror movies that plod through plot to get to the slashing, Get Out's winding road is as exhilarating as the reveals. Peele knows just when to rest on Kaluuya's suspecting, bloodshot eyes, or give the actor and Williams a chance to show off their real chemistry. As with comedy, expectations are Peele's greatest weapon against our nerves; in 2017, the image of a cop car pulling up to a bleeding black man conjures a powerful image, and Peele's horror-comedy tone takes full advantage.
Last April, in the throes of editing Get Out, Peele told me why jumping from making people laugh to making them shriek was such a natural fit: "Horror and comedy are both based on timing. They're both based on taking an absurd notion and grounding it. I've done so much with comedy, and I've laughed so much in my career, that I'm at a place where finding a movie that really scares the shit out of me is a very special, sacred find. Both laughter and fear are compelling emotions, or reactions to emotions. When you experience them through art, it forces you to look inward, and it teaches you something about yourself and hopefully about society at large. They're very similar, but I'm really fascinated by the art of scaring people."
Consider yourself an artist, Mr. Peele -- Get Out, a movie that would never be made, is one of 2017's first essential experiences.