As the genre continues to grow, the horror film space becomes increasingly crowded with movies that reheash or “borrow” their plot elements from other stories. Fresh takes and original ideas become increasingly hard to come by. In part, this is also due to the major film production studios’ preference to stick with “safe” and proven audience-friendly formulas for films, instead of taking a chance on something different and unique, as in their eyes, “new” is an unknown factor for profit.
Thank goodness, then, for Jason Blum and his production company Blumhouse, which has established itself over the last decade as not only a purveyor of some of the best new horror films being released, but also a company willing to put faith in a film that may be a bit of an “X-factor” in terms of what has come before. Blum and his company have brought us such unique fare as ‘The Purge’ and the ‘Paranormal Activity’ series, as well as helping resurrect the career of M. Night Shyamalan with his recent films ‘The Visit’ and ‘Split’ when no other company seemed willing to put faith in his movies, as a few examples. So it should come as no surprise that they were proud to present audiences with what may very well be the most racially-charged horror film ever made: ‘Get Out.’
Now, it’s important to note that the themes of race and prejudice are not used as any sort of “shock value” in this film; as I’ll elaborate on in the coming paragraphs, the very real modern-day issue of race and how it is interwoven into all of our lives is a key building block of the plot of ‘Get Out’ – the movie literally wouldn’t be what it is without this intrinsic foundation. The film is both written by and is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele – he of comedy-sketch fame via the TV shows ‘MADtv’ and ‘Key and Peele’ along with recent films like ‘Keanu’ – and quite frankly, this is a stunningly good creative turn for a gentleman that most people wouldn’t have expected, given his “funny-guy” past.
The opening plot of the film is straightforward enough: Rose (Allison Williams) is in love with Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), and the two are traveling to Rose’s family’s home in the New England wilderness for Chris to “meet the parents” for the first time. Rose is white, and Chris is black; she’s never been in an interracial relationship before, so she’s not sure how her parents will react. Upon the couples’ arrival, Dad Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Mom Missy (Catherine Keener) seem eager and happy enough, if not a bit “overcompensating” – but when Chris meets the family’s African-American employees and their strange-acting local group of friends, he begins to realize that things are not quite as they seem. Maybe he should stay and investigate? No, he should – wait, what was the title of the movie again?
I initially wanted to say that the film is a “slow burn” type of reveal, which is true, to an extent; while the fact that something is awry with Rose’s parents and their social circle is given out relatively early in ‘Get Out’ (and through much of the film’s advance marketing as well), the climactic final act of the film is really where the viewer will discover the “bigger picture,” and it’s a tremendously rewarding experience. The plot does borrow a bit from some classic horror movies that have come before it, but with a bit a modern-day sci-fi edge thrown in for good measure, Peele has ensured that the audience gets their money’s worth. I was able to suss out a few of the twists and turns in advance (are there are many that are evenly-paced and well executed, a testament to Peele’s writing skills), but for sure, the rollicking ride was absolutely worth it.
The cinematography is great, with several shots of characters and situations that were done in such “close up” mode that the viewer actually begins to feel uncomfortable, which I’m confident was the desired effect. Overall, the casting is phenomenal; Kaluuya, who BBC and Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’ addicts will easily recognize, continues his fantastic character-actor work here, and both Keener and Whitford deserve high marks for bringing just the right blend of creepy-yet-acceptably-normal to their roles. One of my all-time favorite actors, Stephen Root, is once again criminally underused as a blind art dealer, but he absolutely shines in the few scenes he is given. Special mention should also be given to Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson as the live-in family employees Georgina and Walter, who not only kick off the film’s something’s-not-right vibe, they keep it going through each characters’ crazy final scene.
Listen, I get it: at the core of it all, the subject of race can many times be tough for people to address and talk about openly, largely due to the simple fact that we all have intrinsically different experiences based on our skin color and personal backgrounds. That’s why films like ‘Get Out’ are so darned important: they force us, sometimes uncomfortably, to take a good look in the societal mirror. As the song from the musical ‘Avenue Q’ goes, “everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes” – but it’s truly how this undeniable piece of our world is woven into the fabric of the story of ‘Get Out’ that makes the film so engaging. That, plus the movie is seriously scary.
‘Get Out’ is the first great scary movie of the year, and I highly encourage everyone to get out to your local cineplexes soon and check it out!
‘Get Out’ will be released in American theaters on February 24th.
Tony Schaab wonders who would win in an epic, Gladiator-style fight between the Grumpy Cat and the “This is Fine” Dog – an animal-heavy meme battle for the ages! A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.