2017 has already seen a fair number of horrors, thrillers and other (wannabe) disturbing movies. In fact, it is just such a movie (Split) that currently sits at the top of the year’s box office. But other than Split, the rest of the spooky movies released this year have been lackluster at best.
Who would have thought that the savior of the genre (so far) would be comedy great Jordan Peele. The man who, along with frequent collaborator Keegan-Michael Key, has given us some of the funniest skits this decade, now brings us Get Out, his debut performance as a feature film writer and director (he co-wrote last year’s comedy spoof Keanu). The film is made possibly thanks to the investment of Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, the company that has basically defined the horror film for this generation. Blum was also the man who resurrected M. Night Shyamalan’s career with The Visit (not bad) and Split (quite good). Blumhouse movies usually have a particular style, but in the case of Get Out, it’s obvious that Peele was simply given the greenlight to make his kind of movie and not be restricted to the Insidious, Sinister style of horror movie that Blumhouse specializes in.
In fact, this movie feels like an alternate reality Key and Peele skit. It’s not a comedy, certainly (though it does have genuinely funny moments), but the same way that Key and Peele often tackled issues under the guise of comedy, this movie tackles them under the guise of a traditional “scary movie.” So while some may criticize it as too cliched to succeed as a scary movie, the film still works because it uses horror tropes merely as the framework to tell the real story.
The real story is about race.
But rest assured, the movie doesn’t forget to be entertaining. This isn’t a preachy “message movie.” It doesn’t drift off into heavy-handedness or turn into victim-porn. But it does deal with issues that some will relate to (though obviously not exactly I hope) and others will easily sympathize with. It effectively uses basic storytelling techniques, that we’ve all seen before, to tell the real story in the subtext.
I think Rod Serling would have been proud; the movie is basically a brilliant episode of Twilight Zone.
If you only look at the surface, this is a very by-the-book, almost cliched horror-thriller (truth be told, there are very few genuine scares; it’s a thriller). The commercials and trailers do a great job giving you just enough information going in that you will be able to put most of the pieces together and figure out what’s going on. Normally that would be a bad thing, but in this case it just suckers you in as you watch everything unfold more or less how you predicted it (at first).
Speaking of, the entire way this movie was marketed deserves praise. Too often commercials and trailers give away secrets, reveals and key plot points that take all the drama or mystery out of the film. With Get Out, the previews (at least the ones I saw) only serve to set up the story and only give away elements that you will guess half an hour into the movie. The commercials don’t hide the fact that the parents of Rose (girlfriend to Chris, the protagonist) are sinister in some way or that every other black person that Chris meets is…off…in some way. It’s also clear from the previews that hypnosis is the horror-hook that the tension is built around. The hows and whats are not really hidden from the audience. One memorable scene in particular—featuring nothing more than a reaction shot from a large group while someone walks up some stairs—basically screams “this is bad news!” at you.
So instead of feeling like you figured out the movie before the movie wanted you to (a problem which helped to ruin A Cure for Wellness), you actually start to feel nervous and anxious, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And drop it does, with a flurry of third act surprises.
Unfortunately, it’s here where the film stumbles, but only slightly. The third act introduces a lot of new elements to the story. Normally, the final act is where you bring everything home and tie all the loose ends together in a climactic way. Get Out does this, but before it does it drops a lot of exposition to help us understand the motives at work in the movie. So much has to be seen and done that the third act becomes a bit rushed-through. All the loose ends are tied up, and in fact you’ll look back on the first hour and realize how tightly written it was; almost every line of dialogue is carefully chosen. It reminded me of the Sixth Sense in that way. But you’ll still feel as though the movie, which took its time and kept your attention rapt for the first hour, was suddenly in a rush to end before the two-hour mark.
That’s a minor critique and it’s really the only one worth mentioning (except for an obviously teed-up cameo by Keegan-Michael Key in the third act that never happened). Other than that, the movie works like a charm. The pacing (for the first two-thirds) was tight, the writing is sharp, the acting is solid, the surprises are fun and the resolution is cheer-worthy.
Jordan Peele has turned in a masterful debut as a feature-length writer and director. He’s a made man now and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
9/10 – Get Out is a brilliant movie, loaded with symbolism, wit and scenes that will make you tense and uncomfortable for a lot of different reasons.