Saturday, March 4, 2017

Get Out Isn’t Just Scary — It’s Socially Relevant Too [Contributor: Jon]


While horror these days has slowly been making a comeback with hits like The Witch and Split, it's rare to see a horror film anymore that hits you effectively on a deep level. For me, there hasn't been a horror movie that's really left me shaken since Black Swan came out in 2010. That film not only scared the living daylights out of me, but also made me think on the ramifications of what I had just witnessed on screen. Since then, no other horror film has left me feeling genuinely scared and enthralled. That is, until Get Out.

Get Out is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele (yes, THAT Jordan Peele). The film focuses on Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African-American man who is dating Rose (Allison Williams), a white woman. Chris and Rose are about to go meet Rose's family for the weekend. Chris is uncomfortable about the trip, as Rose has not told her parents that he is black. When they arrive at Rose's house, her parents Dean and Missy (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) painfully try to relate to Chris by saying things such as "if I could vote for Obama a third term, I would" or using slang such as "my man" or "this thang," making things more uncomfortable. However, as the weekend continues, Chris begins to realize something stranger and more sinister is lurking beneath the surface of the family. And that leads to some disturbing revelations about the family's history.

I fully realize that last paragraph sounds incredibly vague, but we're not here to spoil this film. Because this is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best movies I've seen all year thus far and one of the most genuinely unsettling and disturbing horror films I've seen. Period. Peele has crafted a terrifying film that doesn't make the enemy a ghoul or a demon or some other supernatural entity, but rather a very real and — in today's society — socially relevant monster: racism.

The film tackles the subject so carefully and everything is well-executed. It tackles certain aspects of racism and presents them in a hyperrealistic state. What Peele does so well is build that tension slowly throughout the movie. There are moments of genuine discomfort when you not only see the actions Rose's family take, but what they say. Even if their intention may, at first, seem to be harmless, you can't help but feel the awkwardness and unease that Chris feels — a feeling that only gets amplified throughout the rest of the film.

Peele never lets things feel preachy, though. Rather, the movie breaks down any comforts that one may have within themselves and their own personal bubble, and forces the audience to take a hard look at how others perceive the world . Rather than go for massive, in-your-face scares, Peele opts to go for a slower burn. He builds tension, which reaches a fever pitch in the final 20 minutes. There are jump scares throughout Get Out, but they never feel cheap. They feel genuine, and well-timed during moments of intensity. Peele takes a lot of influence from the works of psychological-horror filmmakers like David Lynch and inspiration from films such as The Stepford Wives and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Peele, remembering his comedic roots, sprinkles moments of comedy throughout the film. However, they almost never detract from the film. Instead, they provide moments of levity for some of the darker parts of the picture. The only complaint I would have in the film is a certain scene involving Chris' best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) and the police. For a brief instant, the moment does take you out of the film's experience. But only briefly, before you are put right back in the middle of the tension.

The acting all around is absolutely phenomenal. There is not a single weak link in this cast. Daniel Kaluuya is one of the biggest standouts, as he is just mesmerizing to watch. From the moment the film begins, we're immediately drawn to him and how he reacts to the world around him. Kaluuya's scene with Catherine Keener in the beginning is one of the highlights of the film overall. Allison Williams is a blast to watch too. Williams does a good job at playing the innocent bystander in all of this, even if — in some moments — you feel just as uncomfortable with her as you do with the rest of the family.

In regards to the family, both Bradley Whitford and Caleb Landry Jones (who plays Rose's brother Jeremy), are terrifying to witness. In Whitford's case, he plays Dean as more of a woefully out-of-touch dorky dad, only trying to make things more comfortable for Chris. As the film progresses though, he still keeps up the dorky act, but it feels creepier and sinister. (Side mote: Bradley Whitford has now been in two of the best horror films this decade with this and The Cabin in the Woods). In Jones' case, he is full-on psycho from the moment we meet him. There's no subtlety in the performance or the character — only that Jeremy is bad news from the moment he enters the frame. In fact, Jones feels very reminiscent of The Joker in more scenes than not, which isn't a bad thing.

Finally, Howery is delightful in the handful of scenes that he's featured in. Coming in as the comic relief, Howery brings some much needed lightness to the film, as his interstitial moments with Chris lead to some often hilarious conversations — and an even more surprising moment between him and Chris toward the end of the film (it is best to see this film with a packed audience, as it provided a much more fun theater experience).

Get Out is easily one of the best films of the year, one of the best horror films made in this decade, and one of the more important films to come out in a while, especially given the social climate of today. With so many reports and stories that you hear on the news involving racism, the film not only works as sharp social commentary, but as also a genuinely disquieting horror film. It's an impressive debut for Jordan Peele, and one can't help but be hopeful and excited for his long and fruitful career behind the camera.



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