Friday, May 19, 2017

Films of 2017: "Get Out"


The goal of comedy is to get people to laugh, whereas the goal of horror is to get people to be scared. As a filmgoer, those who know me well know that I generally try to avoid horror films, as a large majority of them arguably focus on nihilistic and mean-spirited gore and violence, which makes them very maddening and even palpable. (Read here for my review of the Scream series, despite its clever meta aspects). It's rare, though, that a "horror" film actually has something provocative to say, in spite of its excess in said gore and/or fright factors. With that in mind, I did find "Cabin in the Woods" (2012) interesting to an extent, due to its meta elements.

Get Out, the directorial debut from Jordan Peele (one half of the famous comedy duo Key & Peele), is another rare case of a horror-thriller with such social commentary--in this case, racial fears in America. Having read many reviews of this film (without spoilers), not to mention its 99 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I was intrigued to view it--with discretion and discernment, of course.

Director Jordan Peele behind the scenes
The premise is simple. A young Caucasian woman named Rose (Girls star Allison Williams) brings her black boyfriend Chris (Sicario's Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her parents (Bradley Whitford as a neurosurgeon and Catherine Keener as a hypnotist-psychiatrist) for the weekend, and things take a shocking turn for the worse. The objective isn't so much a lesson in morals or values, but really (as most films of this genre go) a fight for survival.

One of Peele's influences was reportedly George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead, which features a black protagonist, with perhaps a little Guess Who's Coming to Dinner-meets-Stepford Wives thrown in. (Isn't it just creepy the way the house servants talk?!?) Peele also balances elements of comedy (especially Chris's TSA friend Rod, played by LilRel Howery) with clich├ęd jump scares.

Daniel Kaluuya
The result, though a brilliantly-made film that would easily fit alongside the filmographies of Romero and John Carpenter, is creepy. The opening scene, for instance, shows a young black man walking down a quiet and lonely street at night, until he's quietly followed. (The song playing in the car following him is the 1930s classic "Run Rabbit Run".) Along with subtle themes of abduction, brainwashing (mental paralysis), and power, Peele reportedly provides an expression of the black experience via an effective, often comedic, and downright frightening horror-thriller. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

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