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‘Get Out’ outstanding

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Scary, smart horror film an instant classic

The best horror movies are the ones that manage to use their scares to say something. Yes, frights should come first and foremost – that’s what a horror movie is – but it’s when those frights come in the service of deeper, more complex ideas that you find the most powerful and compelling examples of the genre.

And at the risk of sounding overly hyperbolic, we’ve just been given a capital-G Great one.

“Get Out,” written and directed by Jordan Peele of “Key & Peele” fame, is one of the best horror movies to come along in years – and there have been some great ones. It is savvy and thought-provoking while also being genuinely unsettling; scary and smart and scary smart. Simply put, it is a remarkable film.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya, “Sicario”) is a successful young photographer living in New York City. His girlfriend of five months Rose Armitage (Allison Williams, TV’s “Girls”) has invited him to join her on a trip out into the suburbs to meet her family. Despite some misgivings – particularly about the fact that she hasn’t told her family that he is black – Chris agrees.

Almost immediately upon arriving at the Armitage estate, something feels off to Chris, despite the welcoming attitude put forth by Rose’s parents – neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford, “All the Way”) and hypnotherapist Missy (Catherine Keener, “Unless”). In particular, the odd behavior of groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson, “Pete’s Dragon”) and housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel, “The Purge: Election Year”) – both black – leaves Chris unsettled.

A late-night encounter with Missy leads to a session in which he is hypnotized to cure his smoking habit, but also left unsure precisely what happened to him. It only gets weirder when Chris learns that the Armitage family’s annual party is this same weekend, leaving him to meet a wide array of rich white suburbanites who treat him with a bizarre combination of friendliness and off-putting intimacy.

As he spends more time with the Armitages, Chris finds himself confronted with an increasing number of questions about who these people really are and what it is that they might want from him. The downward spiral of weirdness continues, leaving him unsure of what precisely is going on. All he knows for certain is that he wants to get out.

But can he?

“Get Out” would be a remarkable achievement for any filmmaker, but for someone making their directorial debut, it is particularly impressive. Peele’s eye is a strong one; his stylistic choices are consistently strong, ratcheting up the tension in ingenious ways while also finding the right moments to let the story breathe. There are some strikingly visceral scenes sprinkled throughout.

As for the script, well … it’s exceptional. The temptation is to point at the explorations – both subtle and overt – of racial and social stereotypes. And make no mistake – those explorations are thoughtful and well-wrought. However, the reason “Get Out” is so successful is because it is, at heart, a horror film, one that celebrates all that the genre entails. It’s also darkly funny – no surprise given Peele’s comedic bona fides – in a way that elevates the tension and terror rather than deflates them.

(Specifically detailing just why this script is so good would result in spoilers – and I’m not the least bit interested in taking away your chance at watching the progression of this story and the message behind it. Suffice it to say that it is layered and engaging in a way that you rarely see in ANY film, let alone a genre movie - “Get Out” has a lot to say and says it well.)

The performances are top-notch as well. Kaluuya is a perfect leading man for this film, bringing the proper blend of strength and vulnerability to a role that requires a fair amount of both. This is easily the best work we’ve ever seen from Williams; it’s a demanding part in a lot of ways. It’s actually a little surprising how good she is. Whitford and Keener are outstanding, both of them giving subtle, nuanced performances that grow more interesting even as they evolve.

There are no weak links in the supporting cast, though there are a few highlights – Gabriel has some chilling moments as Georgina, while Lil Rel Howery (TV’s “The Carmichael Show”) and Stephen Root (“Spectral”) make excellent use of their on-screen opportunities.

Intelligent and intense, “Get Out” lingers long after the credits roll. It is one of those rare films that has “instant classic” written all over it; even in one of the most fertile periods for horror movies we’ve seen in years, it stands out. It’s also a movie that will take its place among the very best socio-political allegories of the genre – think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or the works of guys like John Carpenter and George Romero. This marks an absolutely triumphant directorial debut for Jordan Peele.

Long story short? Get out and see “Get Out.”

[5 out of 5]

Last modified on Saturday, 25 February 2017 14:58

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