Cultural appropriation shifts from “problematic” to “horrific” in writer-director Jordan Peele’s sharp take on the scary world of stuff white people like — starting with the “total privacy” of isolated country estates, like the one black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) visits with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) on a meet-the-parents weekend. (On the drive up from the city, the car hits a deer, and when Washington goes to check the body, there’s a telling shot of his foot leaving the asphalt and stepping into wilderness.) The jigsaw-tight structure is that of conventional horror done right — mercifully light on jump scares (instead opting for a number of disturbing reveals via moving camera) and mostly smart about mechanics. (Why go walking through a dark house in the middle of the night? Because you’re trying to sneak a cigarette, away from your disapproving girlfriend and her even more disapproving family.) And layered atop that structure is a squirmingly funny portrayal of tortured race relations, even among people of ostensibly good will. It’s not subtle, but it is clever, and besides, this is a horror movie — one in which the black guy is determined not to die.
Length: 2 hours, 10 minutes