Cinema Knife Fight Presents:
GET OUT (2017)
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: An elegant formal room. Well-dressed guests mingle over cocktails. There is one African-American man in attendance, and he is acting rather strangely, saying things like “I’m happy.” “Life is good.” “I’m a happy worker.” MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are in attendance, and ARRUDA, observing the man’s behavior, nudges SOARES.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Something is wrong with that guy. He keeps saying the weirdest things.
L.L. SOARES: I’ve been saying that about you for years now.
MA: No, I’m serious. I think that woman over there hypnotized him.
MA: She did some weird thing with a spoon and a teacup, and ever since then his behavior has changed.
LS: Really? I’ve always wanted to be hypnotized. Let’s go check it out.
MA: No, wait—I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
(LS & MA approach the elegantly dressed WOMAN.)
LS: My friend here thinks you’re hypnotizing that man over there using a spoon and tea-cup.
WOMAN: That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
LS: I agree. Hypnosis is ridiculous. It’s all fake, and all hypnotists are frauds.
WOMAN: They are, are they?
LS: Yes! For instance, I bet you can’t hypnotize my friend here!
MA: Whoa! Wait a minute.
WOMAN: Wanna bet?
LS: Yeah, I do. I bet you all of the drinks at this party that you can’t hypnotize my friend. You do it, I’ll pay the tab for everybody here, but if you fail—and you will—the drinks are on you!
WOMAN (cackles): You idiot. It’s an open bar. You don’t have to pay for any drinks.
LS: I don’t?
(LS licks his lips)
LS: Well, I saw a very expensive bottle of expensive bottle of Yamazaki 50-year-old whisky on the shelf there. If I win, you hand it over.
WOMAN: And if I win?
LS: I’m sure you’ll think of something.
WOMAN: I will.
MA: Excuse me.
LS: Be quiet you! (To WOMAN) Go ahead. Hypnotize him.
(WOMAN reaches for her teacup and pauses)
LS: What is it? Looking for this? (Dangles teaspoon.)
(WOMAN frowns, but then grabs another teaspoon from a neighboring table. Again she pauses. MA holds the tea-cup to his lips.)
MA: Mmm. This tea is delicious.
WOMAN: Why you—!
(MA & LS both hold tea cups and spoons and begin clinking the spoons against the cups, loudly.)
WOMAN: Stop that! Stop that! STOP THAT!
MA: Stop saying that. (WOMAN stops talking.)
LS: Slap yourself in the face. (She slaps herself in the face.)
MA: Cluck like a chicken.
(She clucks like a chicken.)
LS: Go lock yourself in a closet!
(WOMAN stops, turns, and exits into a closet.)
LS: Wow! This hypnosis stuff is easier than I thought! I should try it on you. They say people with low IQs are especially susceptible. (Laughs.)
MA: Then might I suggest self-hypnosis for you, then?
LS (stops laughing): Awww, you’re no fun.
MA: Let’s just do our review now, since we’re here at this party and that woman isn’t around to bother us anymore.
LS: Sure. You start. I have a bottle of whisky to crack open (walks away)
MA: Today we’re reviewing the new horror movie GET OUT (2017), an unusual horror film which tells the story of an African-American guy who meets his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, and if that’s not difficult enough, her family turns out to be—well, a tiny bit sinister.
Speaking of unusual, the release of GET OUT this weekend marks the second weekend in a row we’ve had a release that has not been a strictly by-the-numbers horror flick. That’s pretty cool! Last week we had A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017), a very creative horror movie, and now we have GET OUT.
LS (comes back, wearing a party hat and blowing a horn): Hurray!! Horror movies that try to be original rock!!
MA: In GET OUT, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) travels with his girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), to meet her parents for the first time. Even though Rose promises that her parents are not racist, Chris still has reservations about the weekend. He knows how difficult these things can be.
LS: That’s because he’s experienced this kind of thing all his life—he knows that people are going to act differently around him, and he’s anxious about. But he really cares about Rose, and he’s willing to put up with some discomfort to make her happy.
MA: On the their way to Rose’s parents’ home, there is an accident as they hit a deer, which marks the second straight horror movie with a plot point of the main characters hitting a deer, which also happened in A CURE FOR WELLNESS, although the accident in that movie had a bigger impact on the plot than the accident here in GET OUT. Here, it serves as a harbinger for more ominous things to come.
LS: Was it just me, or did the deer seem to fly into the car? It certainly wasn’t running when it collided with them. It seemed more like someone threw it at them.
MA: No, it wasn’t just you. It did seem to fly at the car, which is why at first I didn’t think they had hit a deer. But since the movie doesn’t revisit this scene, I forgot about it.
This also sets up a scene where the white police officer who helps them after the accident asks to see Chris’ driver’s license even though he wasn’t driving, and Rose refuses, saying the officer has no business asking for Chris’ license. This shows Rose’s fierce loyalty to her boyfriend.
Once they arrive at the house, they meet Rose’s parents, and even though it’s true that they do not appear racist, things are still awkward as Rose’s dad, Dean (Bradley Whitford), tries to overcompensate for the racial differences by saying numerous unintentionally off-putting things. Plus we learn that Rose’s mom, Missy (Catherine Keener), is a therapist who uses hypnosis, and when they learn that Chris is a smoker, they offer to have Missy hypnotize him to cure him of his nicotine addiction. Chris declines, but a strange, late night encounter shows that Missy doesn’t like to take no for an answer.
Then Missy’s brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), arrives, and his attitude towards Chris is even more bizarre than that of his parents. We also learn that her parents just so happen to be hosting a big party that weekend, a reunion of sorts of all their family friends, and when these guests arrive, their behavior towards Chris is even more puzzling.
LS: While Rose’s parents are awkward around Chris, I thought her brother Jeremy was very over-the-top, and kind of ruined the mood a little. It was like he was wearing a sign that said “Hey, look at me, I’m a looney toon.” And it just broke the subtle spell this movie was weaving, a little. I think if he had been more normal, it would have worked better.
MA: And when Chris notices the black servants acting strangely, he begins to think that something might be wrong with the Armitage household…very wrong indeed.
I really liked GET OUT, which makes back-to-back weekends that I’ve enjoyed a new horror movie release. I can’t remember the last time that has happened.
(DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER happen by.)
DRACULA: 1931 was a very good year for horror movies.
MONSTER: 1931, good!
MA: Well, it hasn’t been that long!
LS: Hey, you guys want some wine?
MONSTER: Wine, good!
DRACULA: I never drink— wine.
MA (points to LS): I think he has some whisky.
LS: You don’t want any whisky, Drac. What you want is blood. And there’s plenty of that. Just go mingle some more.
DRACULA: True that. We shall mingle.
(DRACULA & FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER move on.)
LS (to MA): Don’t you be giving away my Yamazaki!
MA: Quit complaining. He’s a friggin’ vampire! Your whisky’s safe. He wasn’t going drink it.
Anyway, written and directed by first-time director Jordan Peele, known more for his work as a comedic actor, GET OUT strikes a nice balance between drama, horror, and even some comedy. The script is excellent. The racial part works wonderfully, because it’s true. Sadly, tensions between races are still remarkably high, and so the awkwardness felt between Chris and Rose’s family comes off as real, even for folks like Rose’s parents who deny they could ever be racist. The dialogue is spot on, especially for Chris, as he processes what is going on, at first taking everything in stride, then becoming more and more suspicious of what’s going on.
And the film doesn’t skimp on the horror. It opens with an effective scene of a black man walking alone on a residential street and what happens to him when a car pulls up alongside him. The film keeps things moving as the audience, like Chris, tries to figure out if something sinister is really going on at the Armitage’s home or if it’s just paranoia on his part.
When we finally learn what is going on, it’s a decent reveal and is a natural progression on everything that has come before it. It doesn’t come out of left field. I liked where the story goes.
LS: I thought GET OUT was damn near perfect. It’s smart, the storyline as it unfolds makes sense, and the way characters act make their actions plausible. This isn’t the kind of movie where characters do stupid things and end up dead. And you’re right, when we get to the big reveal, it’s not 100 percent original, but it’s very clever, and it works extremely well. Nobody’s motivations seem forced or implausible. Nothing seems to be there just to move the movie in the direction Peele wants it to go. It all seems natural and fluid.
I wasn’t overly nuts about the ending, as I expected things to get far more horrific than they do. But I liked that the film didn’t overplay the race card. Sure, the story revolves around race relations, and it’s an integral part of the movie, and you can look at it from a symbolic perspective regarding the plight of the black man in America, but in terms of plot, when it’s revealed to Chris what’s going on, it’s not just about race. Then again, the victims here are black, but the film does an excellent job of not becoming preachy at all.
LS: It goes back to what I said about the script being smart. It could have gone in a very exploitative direction, but it doesn’t. It seems to be heading that way, and then Peele throws a curve ball. The script and direction, both by Jordon Peele, are exceptional here. As you said before, Peele is primary known as a comedic actor, and is one half of the comedy duo KEY AND PEELE, whose sketch comedy show lasted from 2012 to 2015. He also co-starred with Keegan-Michael Key in KEANU last year (and co-wrote the script with Alex Rubens). It’s been interesting watching both guys’ careers grow over the years, and Peele’s directing debut is a solid success.
And I didn’t mind the ending at all. I thought something completely different was going to happen, so I was pleasantly surprised.
MA: Daniel Kaluuya is solid in the lead role as Chris Washington. He’s a likeable guy, and his reactions to everything that goes on around him are authentic. I remember him in SICARIO (2015), and he was very good in that movie as well.
LS: Yeah, he was. Chris is the heart of the movie, and so the actor who plays him is very important. Kalyuuya nails it, and is pretty terrific here. It was easy to go with his perspective, and figure things out along with him. And we care about him.
MA: Likewise, Allison Williams is also excellent as Rose; she makes her character multi-dimensional, and she does a good job making Rose believable.
LS: I’m a big fan of Williams. She also plays Marnie on the HBO series, GIRLS, which is currently in its final season, and she’s been one of my favorite characters on that show throughout. People may also remember that she was Peter Pan in the big NBC live musical, PETER PAN LIVE! Can you believe that was in 2015? Seems like it was just yesterday. But yeah, she nails it here, too.
MA: I also enjoyed Catherine Keener as Rose’s mom, Missy, and Bradley Whitford as her dad, Dean. They also make their characters very believable. Keener’s been in a lot things and is a solid actor, and Whitford of course is known for his work on the TV show WEST WING (1999-2006), but he was also in the horror movie THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012).
LS: I’ve been a fan of Keener’s for a long time now. She’s been in tons of good movies, like BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999); THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005); CAPOTE (2005), where she played Harper Lee; and INTO THE WILD (2007). She’s one of those underappreciated actresses who always adds something to whatever she’s in, and who’s often taken for granted. And she’s perfect as Rose’s more serious parent.
Bradley Whitford is also perfect as her dad, who seems goofy at first and always says too much and overshares. It seems like I’ve been watching him in movies and on TV shows forever. He was also in movies like AWAKENINGS (1990) and SCENT OF A WOMAN (1992), and has appeared on TV shows like NYPD BLUE, TALES OF THE DARK SIDE, and THE X-FILES, just to name a few. He’s a good character actor, and he’s also pretty perfect here.
MA: Caleb Landry Jones makes for a rather creepy brother Jeremy, and both Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel make their marks as servants whose behavior is borderline strange.
LS: I don’t know. I thought Caleb Landry Jones was creepy, but a little too obviously so. I thought he was the weakest link in the movie. But I liked Henderson and Gabriel, and also Lakeith Stanfield as a partygoer named Andrew Logan King, who has a particularly unusual interaction with Chris.
MA: I also enjoyed LilRel Howery who plays Chris’s buddy, Rod, a TSA agent, who provides the comic relief throughout this movie, and proves himself to be rather heroic as well.
LS: I was waiting for you to mention him. Howery (who’s also on the TV series THE CARMICHAEL SHOW) was actually my favorite character in the movie after Chris. He’s just genuinely likeable and funny, and he steals every scene he’s in. And he’s a perfect example of why the movie works so well. He’s funny, and has some funny scenes, but never once do his actions seem silly. He’s another smart character, trying to put the pieces together, and he really grew on me as the movie progressed.
MA: GET OUT is a refreshing horror movie, one that moves away from the standard horror movie tropes we so often see, and I for one was happy for it. It’s not perfect, it’s not earth shattering, but it is entertaining, and it is a horror movie, and a good one.
I give it three knives.
LS: I liked it more than you did. We see so many bad horror movies that march out the same old clichés over and over again, and GET OUT was such an invigorating breath of fresh air for the horror genre as a whole. Finally, someone took the trapping of the horror movie and turned it into something different and original. Peele has said that there’s not a lot of difference between comedy and horror, and he’s right. The two are very close in a lot of ways. They both elicit a strong response, if done right, they can both be very visceral mediums, and both comedies and horror movies are not taken very seriously by a lot of mainstream critics.
But like Rod Serling’s use of science fiction to make relevant points about the society he lived in in THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Jordan Peele has taken a horror movie and used it to make a lot of very good points in GET OUT. I also like the fact that there’s a personal quality here as well. Peele is giving us a perspective we haven’t seen a lot in horror films, and it’s refreshing. Horror doesn’t always have to be about white teenagers getting stalked by masked lunatics. Or teenage white girls being possessed by the devil. There are so many different perspectives out there. Why not use horror to expand on the palette, and give us many points of view?
I loved GET OUT as a horror film, and I loved its satirical elements as well. There don’t seem to be many wrong notes here, and I wish more people would use horror as a tool and expand what it can encompass. I hope more interesting filmmakers see the opportunities here to open the door even wider for different and compelling horror stories.
We’ve been caught in the same cycle of crap for too long, and GET OUT was just different enough to give me hope for the future of horror cinema. And so, I give it four knives.
MA: I agree with everything you said. But I just thought the ending wrapped up a little too neatly. Still, an excellent movie.
LS: And now we should skedaddle before our hostess comes out of her trance and reads us the riot act. (Hugs bottle of Yamazaki to his chest). And nobody’s taking this away from me.
(MAN rushes over)
MAN: Mrs. Walton still thinks she’s a chicken and laid an egg in the closet!
MA: Let’s get out of here.
© Copyright 2017 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives GET OUT~ three knives!
LL Soares gives GET OUT ~four knives.