Get Out and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Jordan Peele
2016 turned out to be a fantastic year for horror movies; not just for the ones that ended up on my best of the year list, but also the ones that aimed to be middle of the road seemed to step up their game and try harder than you’d normally expect from the genre. Now sure, 2017 started with The Bye Bye Man, but even 2016 had some low points with The Forest and Incarnate. Plus, we’ve also gotten the excellent, if problematic, Split not too long ago which is already one of the better films this year; horror or otherwise. Now we’ve finally gotten to the BIG one which is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut that’s been getting a lot of positive buzz from when it was first announced all the way up to now with those Fancy Schmancy “professional” critics who are raving about it after they saw the “Critics Screenings”. Well I had to drive thirty miles in the rain AND hail to see this damn thing, so it BETTER be as good as everyone is saying it is! Is this thoughtful and well-crafted horror film that everyone says it is and that we desperately need right now, or did the hype machine get out of control with this movie which admittedly can sometimes happen with horror films? Heck, I wasn’t the biggest fan of You’re Next, and that movie was instantly touted as a classic of the genre! Anyway, let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) heading off to meet her family for the first time in what is sure to be a painfully awkward experience for everyone. Sure enough, Mr. and Mrs. Armitage (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) are just as “down” and “hip with the youngsters” as you’d imagine from older white people, but Chris seems to know what he as getting into and is just taking everything in stride until he get back home after the weekend is over. Of course, things only get worse as Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) enters the picture is an obnoxious dweeb as well as a bunch of the Armitage’s other white friends who are VERY excited to meet Chris. On top of that the Armitage’s have two black servants, Georgina and Walter (Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson), who look to have gotten the Stepford Wives treatment, though only Chris seems to be noticing this. Tensions mount higher and higher as more clues are uncovered by Chris and it’s starting to seem that he may be in more danger than he initially realized. Can he get out before he becomes the victim of whatever these white people have planned? What happened to Georgina and Walter that has them acting so strange? Did we SERIOUSLY get one of the best movies of the year from the guy who co-wrote Keanu? That wasn’t a BAD movie, but god DAMN is this a step up!!
The movie is every bit as good as everyone else has been saying, and frankly there’s not much I’m gonna be able to contribute to the conversation on this other than gushing about how effectively it builds suspense and horror while also being about something that ACTUALLY matters. It takes the best parts of The Witch as far as choking atmosphere and relentless tension as well as the best parts of The Purge: Election Year in how unafraid it is to actually MEAN something and to have a stated message that isn’t completely off-base or propagandistic. This movie does indeed have a flaw which crops up towards the end of the movie, but it doesn’t detract from the power and impact of this movie in the slightest, and is more than made up for by the last scene of the movie. I won’t spoil it because witnessing it firsthand is an absolutely vital experience (especially if you can see it in a crowd), but it’s one of the most profoundly brilliant uses OF horror and tension to make a salient point that I’ve seen in a movie. Movies, television, and all forms of entertainment are at their best when they can pull something out of you in the process; whether it’s joy, anxiety, sorrow, laughs, or any other emotion. The final scene in this movie does this in a way that cuts through so much bullshit in our political discourse on racial issues that it’s no wonder that the usual suspects are getting hot and bothered over it and calling it “anti-white” or whatever. Who cares? You shouldn’t be listening to them anyway!
So just to clarify, if it wasn’t already obvious, I’m a white dude and that means that I’m probably the last person to listen to when it comes to racial issues and how they are depicted in cinema. I’ll try to do my best however, but take anything I say with a grain of salt. Now what makes this movie so effective, at least for the first half of it, is that Jordan Peele has done an incredible job of portraying the biases and outright discrimination that black men face in our country and has ingeniously fused them into what starts out as a run of the mill horror film set up. Now to be clear, that’s not to say that the first half isn’t compelling or that it feels derivative. Instead, what it’s doing is taking something that any horror film fan is familiar with (a road trip to a house where bad shit is gonna go down) but giving it a rarely scene perspective to make a point about the genre. Everything that would have been mundane or only moderately suspenseful in any other movie takes on a whole new level of dread because our main character is black and the movie isn’t shying away from that perspective. Even in horror movies that have black characters (either as the protagonists or as supporting characters) are still often filmed from a non-black perspective and things can be taken for granted in those situations that are brought into a stark and unflinching light here. It’s sort of like what Spielberg was trying to get across in Schindler’s List, or to be more frank, what the Black Lives Matters protest has been trying to tell us. Even in the worst case scenarios, there’s a certain set of rules or decorum that we all live by, so in movies there are certain points where you can feel that a character may be “safe” because they adhere to these rules. In Schindler’s List, the people in the concentration camp were living under the guise that as long as they followed orders that they can still make it out of this; providing them with a modicum of control over their own fate. This of course is shattered once Amon Göth starts randomly sniping people from his balcony which is why it’s one of the most disturbing scenes in the movie. In real life, this can be seen when unarmed black men are gunned down in the street by those who are supposed to protect and serve us which is one of the reasons some people try so hard to rationalize these shootings and why ALL Lives Matters is completely pointless. As long as the status quo is upheld, we don’t need to change or to acknowledge our own faults and prejudices; leading to the situation only getting worse and worse. Jordan Peele directing along with Daniel Kaluuya’s acting perfectly captures this feeling of duress which is great for adding a relatively unexplored idea of horror to the genre, while also hopefully leaving an impact on the audience who realize that many people live with that sense of unease every single day.
Even with that constant weight that is being carried throughout the movie, it still manages to visceral, fun, and even hilarious at points without sacrificing an iota of the impact which is an impressive feat for any first time director. A lot of this comes from the support cast of mostly white people which includes Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, and Bardley Whitford; all of whom clearly understood the material they were working with and did amazing jobs complementing the fantastic script. In particular, Allison Williams is really great as the liberal girlfriend who’s a little too eager to speak for Chris, and it’s the character that’s gonna hit uncomfortably close to home to any other socially conscious white person who’s gonna walk into this hoping it will eviscerate the overt racist and older people. Nope! This movie has something to say about us too! Of the cast, I’d say that MAYBE Caleb Landry Jones is a bit underused here considering he’s basically playing the same part he did in The Last Exorcism and was much more memorable in that film than this one, but even with that being the case he still turns in a damn fine performance whenever he’s on screen. Also it’s worth mentioning is Lil Rel Howery as Chris’s best friend Rod back home who gets a lot of the broad humor in here, and it does work for the most part. It helps to bring the tension down which is good so it can be ratchet back up soon after (the tension release cycle), and he does end up serving a very important part in the story even if it isn’t obvious right off the bat.
Now the movie isn’t perfect as I had my problems with the ending. Without spoiling it, the movie is CLEARLY pushing you down a specific conclusion (Route A) with all the evidence pointing towards that being the ultimate solution to the mystery. The movie ends up throwing a curveball though isn’t TOO different from the initial solution (Route B) but re-contextualizes everything and gives a whole new layer of insight and intrigue to the story that’s already been so startlingly poignant up to that point, and it leads to a finale that is pretty damn jaw dropping. However, in my opinion the movie did such a good job of setting up Route A that when we find out it’s ACTUALLY Route B, it raises a whole bunch of questions about the specifics of what we saw leading up to this point. I can’t go into what exactly feels off about the movie now that we KNOW where everything is going, but it’s something that I think is going to affect any subsequent viewings. It didn’t bother me too much as it was going along, but it’s still nagging at me that they didn’t readjust some of the earlier scenes to fit better with the solution we ultimately got. That’s really it though as far as flaws as everything else works perfectly in the movie. Maybe a scene here or there is goofier than it should be, maybe some of the jokes don’t land with Lil Rel Howery like they should, and hypnotism seems a bit conveniently overpowered in this movie, but that’s all just nit picking in a movie that’s manages to get so much right.
2016 was a damn good one for horror films as three ended up being on my best of the year list and several more almost made the cut. It’s still fairly early to be making any promises, but I am fairly confident that this will end up making the list as well-crafted horror movies with a message seem to be my jam. It’s a movie that’s so great in such a unique way that I’m honestly curious what Jordan Peele is planning on doing next, if anything. Hell, if this is the only movie he ever makes then at least he managed to make his mark on the genre in the process. Go see this movie if you get the chance. Hell, go out of your way to see it at some far away theater if you have no other choice like I did. It’s definitely worth the effort and is going to have an impact going forward. I can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele does next, so long as it’s not Get Out 2 (or should I say Get Out Too). Seriously, there’s NO reason to do a sequel to this. PLEASE DON’T LET ANYONE TALK YOU INTO IT!!
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