Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Microreview [Movie]: Get Out

Get Out and see this one....
                                                 
In Jordan Peele’s new film, Get Out, the horror beating below the surface is that of the long history of racism and violence against African-American bodies. Near the mid-point of the film, there is an eerie “bingo” scene that calls back into history in one of the most quietly unsettling moments of the film. What Peele has made isn’t just a conventional horror movie, though it is that and an excellent one, it’s a horror film that does exactly what great horror should do: it peers closely at something that happens every day and through the heightening of it sheds light on those everyday horrors.

The film stars Daniel Kaluuya (who is excellent—doing a lot of work through subtle facial expression shifts) as Chris, a photographer, who is going to meet his girlfriend’s (played by Allison Williams, also excellent) parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford, who are also both terrific) for the first time. He’s nervous because she hasn’t told her parents that he’s black. Essentially, this could be played as a contemporary Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. But, what Peele does is heighten every emotion and for the first two-thirds of the film, it is a tense and strange glimpse that feels like it could fall into horror or into just a slightly tonally elevated drama. Now, let me say this, this movie is tense as fuck. From the opening to the end, I never felt my body relax (my muscles in fact were so tensed that I had a headache after watching the movie). There are, yes, some jump scares throughout, but those are surface level frights. The tension, though, comes from how just on the edge of real everything is. As audience member’s, we can immediately empathize with Chris—who isn’t sure what level of badness he’s gotten himself into, is this normal behavior and he’s being paranoid or is everything as weird as he thinks it is?

When violence finally comes in the film, and be warned that it does come, it feels almost cathartic after the build-up to it. This catharsis might even be part of Peele’s point. I think it would be easy to argue that the film’s climax, which descends into outright horror film territory is almost unnecessary in the film—which has built itself in such a well-constructed way. But, I’d argue against this, by using the trappings of the horror genre, Peele is both subverting them and also making the audience think about violence in a way that most horror films don’t achieve.

If there’s one element that works slightly less, it’s the side story of Chris’s best friend (played by Lilrel Howery), a suspicious TSA agent who is dog-sitting for Chris and also offering him warnings. However, while this storyline feels tonally out of place, the humor is needed and the character acts as an audience surrogate—voicing the warnings that many of us might be thinking as watch the film.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention two other elements of the film: one, it is beautifully filmed and paced. Every shot builds onto the previous one, with again the exception of the side-story. The other element to note is that despite the tension, this is also a deeply engaging film. I usually judge a film on how many times I want to check my watch. While watching Get Out, I felt that we’d reached the climax of the film, but thought we’d only been watching for like 45 minutes. But, it was the climax of a movie that runs around 1:40. I don’t remember a recent film, where I was this oblivious to time passing.

If you’re a fan of horror, go see this film because it’s scary and fun and smart. If you’re a fan of films just in general, go see it because it’s extremely well done. Peele has done what great horror and great movies should do: placed something horrific out where everyone can see it.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 9/10

Bonuses: +1 for the acting, +1 for the soundtrack, +1 for being an excellent horror movie (which is too rare)

Penalties: -1 for making me so tense that I got a headache (I mean this shows how well done it is, but I'm bitter), -1 for the friend's story-line not quite working as well

Nerd Coefficient: 10/10 


***

POSTED BY: Chloe, speculative fiction fan in all forms, monster theorist, and Nerds of a Feather blogger since 2016.

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