Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Review: Get Out

Get Out (2017) – Jordan Peele

        When word first hit that Jordan Peele, the funny big-eared half of Key and Peele, was writing and directing a horror film I was obviously intrigued. When I found out it was somewhat a comedy I thought, well sure, yeah. When I heard it was being produced by Blumhuse I went, “Hmmmm,” pleasingly as I tapped the pads of my fingers together in a thoughtful way. When I saw the trailer, learned it was about a suburban nightmare land where seemingly affable white families terrorize black males, it all basically clicked. Oh and then when I found out Bradley Whitford plays the aforementioned patriarch I basically stood up in my chair and screamed “TAKE MY MONEY.”
I am an apologetic lover of horror-comedies. The two genres, when done well, can become a sum that's so much greater than its parts. But it has to be done just right, and I find it's usually best when the movies are treated as horror films that happen to also have comedic moments, rather the other way around. I'll admit the bar was set so high for my expectations of this movie it seemed almost impossible to deliver. I thought perhaps Peele's (hilarious) sensibilities would bleed into the rest of the horror parts too much, and feel uneven.
        Well I am stupid. Because apparently Jordan Peele is REALLY good at making horror films.
The film's hero is Chris, a likable, if not fully developed (not that it detracts from the movie), likable, 26-year-old black man going with his white girlfriend to meet her parents for the first time. “Did you tell them I was black?” He asks in the first scene, immediately setting up the movie's tones of racial awareness. But even when she assures him her parents aren't racist (“My dad would have voted for Obama a third time if he could”), once they're on the trip everything feels off. They hit a deer on the drive up, which Chris watches die, before he is hassled by a white police officer (seemingly just for being black). The scene is simple and fast but steeped in dread (Peele has a good eye for staging a shot in a slightly askew way to make them seem just barely strange).
        One of Get Out's greatest strengths is its commentary on race relations: suburban affluent white people's trying to be “cool” with black people, discomfort outside one's own race, having black help, stereotypes about race and horror movies, they all do a great job to make this movie a sharp, relevant satire while not trying so goddamn hard to spell the message. Many times the race differences are down played for laughs (Bradley Whitford, who plays the dad, and thank GOD because he's amazing, keeps calling Chris things like “man” and “bro”). Rose's mother, Catherine Keener, seems off. Kind, but way too into hypnosis, and her brother Jeremy is downright aggressive, trying to wrestle with Chris because of his “fantastic genetics.” It flips the horror movie trope (of a nice-seeming family who are actually killers) just enough by adding the racial element that it feels fresh, but still familiar enough that the “message” of the film never feels exhausting.
        As the weekend progresses and things get weirder, we see Chris (Daniel Kayuula) do his best to stay civil in the face of all these awkward moments, continually telling Rose (Allison Williams) that everything is fine. Like so many movies, it's the main characters own admittance into these situations that becomes his undoing. It just so happens this time it's because of a determination to not assume other people's racism, even when it literally hypnotizes you.
        Which brings to my favorite thing about this type of horror movie: Without giving too much away, there is very little to no supernatural elements in the film. Sure, things go absolutely batshit crazy, and some people are definitely gonna get stabbed (possibly with a deer's head, a recurring image that actually does a nice job of establishing Chris' character), but it all feels creepily possible. There's no gross-outs or cheap jump scares. Instead the movie has a building level of suspense, everything getting stranger and stranger, until it finally snaps and the true horrors are revealed. It's really fucking well done.
        The movie definitely has some comedic beats in it (mostly delivered by LilRel Howery, Chris' proud TSA agent friend), but Peele saves most of them for the second half of the film when things get equally bonkers for our hero. It feels ever-so-slightly uneven, and not because the jokes aren't funny or Howery doesn't sell them perfectly (he does), I guess I just with it was spread out a little more evenly throughout the whole movie. There is also one particular ending fight/death scene that is so badly edited I have to think everyone on set had the flu that day. But these are very small complaints in an otherwise inventively smart, fun, and most of all, creepyscary horror movie that I fucking loved. Jordan Peele has got my vote for all the movies in the future.

Grade: A-

Random Observations:

  • Between this and Cabin in the Woods, can Bradley Whitford star in every self-aware horror comedy movie for the rest of time? PLEASE THANKS.
  • Lakeith Stanfield from Atlanta shows up! Hey Darius! I wish you had shot a poster of a dog in this as well.
  • Daniel Kaluuya (from Black Mirror) is great, and does some super solid straight-faced crying. It was intense. And Allison Williams' (Girls) can go from “sweet everygirl” to dead-eyed SCARY quickly.
  • I saw this movie in a VERY crowded showing in Downtown LA. It was one of the loudest, rowdiest, and most fun movie-going experiences I ever had.
  • I could not stop thinking about this the whole time. I truly hope this is how Jordan Peele makes movies:

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