With Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, Catherine Keener.
The story is simple. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a talented young photographer, is invited by Rose (Allison Williams), his girlfriend, to meet her parents for the first time. He is black and she is white, and the parents don’t know that, because Rose says it doesn’t matter. “If my father could have voted for Obama for the third time, he would have.” So much for the bona fides of not being racist.
But when they arrive at the nameless suburb, we remember the opening scene when a hapless young black man in search of a house in an unnamed suburb is kidnapped by a man in a black helmet who appears from an ominous white sports car. The set up is scary, and the music adds to the feeling of creepiness, beginning with a lyric whose refrain is “run rabbit run.” Throughout the movie there are references to hunter and prey. Animals sometime stand in as black surrogates, beginning with a suddenly violent accident with a deer on the road which sets everyone’s teeth on edge. We are in horror movie country here. Is the deer real? Will it rise up and strike its killers?
As the weekend goes on, more signs indicate that the young man is not safe. The movie explores a paranoid nightmare of a black man who cannot trust white people, and even less, the black folk who work on the estate and seem to have suffered some kind of brain damage.
I loved the humor in the movie. At one point, Chris’ friend Rod (LilRel Howery), who suspects that things aren’t right when Chris doesn’t return on time, goes to the police to report a missing person. While there, he gives his theory of what the white folks are doing to the black men in that neck of the woods. What the on duty officer does with the information is funny. It also shows how important it is to have one good friend. Rod is a member of the TSA and knows his way around an investigation.
The photography captures each scene with its alternating twistedness and fear, the acting is dead on, and the music by Michael Abels sets the mood perfectly. This movie’s brilliance lies in how it lands its points in two different genres: as a horror movie and a social satire.