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Friday, March 03, 2017

Horror, Humor, and a Message

Written by  Chuck Duncan
Daniel Kaluuya in ‘Get Out’ Daniel Kaluuya in ‘Get Out’

Get Out plays the race card while dishing up blood ’n’ gore

Every once in a while a movie comes along that is virtually unreviewable because of the intricacies of the plot, which would result in a massively spoiler-filled report. Get Out is one of those films, and that’s a good thing because you really shouldn’t know too much about it before seeing it. So we’ll just give you the basics of the plot.

The movie starts out with what appears to be a classic horror movie trope: a lone man walking down a quiet suburban street suddenly finds himself being followed by an unseen person in a car. That the man is black in what is presumably a predominantly white neighborhood and ends up being attacked should already make viewers a bit uneasy as it evokes memories of the Trayvon Martin case.

Cut to Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), packing for a weekend getaway at her parents’ home. Chris has to ask the question, “Do they know I’m black,” and Rose assures him they will be fine. In fact, her dad would have voted for Obama again if he could have. The ride is marred by an unfortunate – but important – encounter with a deer, but once at the house things seem fine even if Rose’s parents seem to be overcompensating, and the groundskeeper and housekeeper seem oddly robotic.

Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) are both medical professionals, he a neurosurgeon and she a psychiatrist who specializes in hypnotherapy, and while dad makes awkward small talk (mentioning his desire to vote a third time for Obama), mom is intent on curing Chris’s desire to smoke through hypnosis. But she does in a way that completely violates his trust and things only get weirder when the (white) locals show up for an annual party that just happens to fall on this particular weekend. Did Rose forget or is Chris being set up for something?

Director Jordan Peele (from the comedy duo Key & Peele) has taken the horror genre to a new level with its blistering social commentary (one of the party guests tells Chris something like black is where it’s at right now ... an odd thing to say), keeping viewers just as confused about the situation as Chris is, before veering into some classic horror-style blood and gore (that still manages to evoke a few laughs), while keeping you on the edge of your seat until the very end, never sure of how the Chris’s situation will play out.

Peele’s cast is terrific. Newcomer Kaluuya is very personable as Chris. He needs the audience to be on his side while events unfold, and Kaluuya does a great job of keeping us in his corner rooting for him. Williams is also terrific for reasons that cannot be discussed, but she gives a performance that will toy with your emotions. Whitford is also outstanding and Keener is mesmerizing ... literally. Also worth note is Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams, Chris’s best friend who works for the TSA. He’s the film’s real comic relief but he becomes a pivotal character midway through the film.

Peele’s script is filled with some marvelous scenes and his assured direction will have many of them haunting your memory, particularly Dean’s take on bingo (with a stunning use of music to punctuate the scene) and a moment with the housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel) in which she goes through several emotions all at once. There are some nifty visuals during the hypnosis scene as well. If I have one little nit to pick, it’s only that some of the story’s reasoning gets a little murky towards the end, leaving one with a few nagging unanswered questions. But with a film that’s so original and so well put together and acted, one can be forgiving.

If you’ve been longing for a good psychological thriller that values story and character over bloodletting, then you are well-advised to take in a screening of Get Out.

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