Under the Skin

Get Out

Film Title: Get Out

Get Out (2017) – Horror | Comedy | Thriller

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams

How I Watched: Theatres

Review by Nick Spanjer

Here’s the thing about the first big horror movie of 2017: it is not that scary. Now before you turn away from this review, know that I loved the film. While each trailer wraps it in a pretty horrific little bow, the truth is, the film is more of a psychological clusterbomb, meant to fuck with the heads of the droves of white audiences filing in to see it. I know you’re thinking, “Oh man, Jordan Peele just made a movie to rip on Trump voters?,” but, no.

The smartest part of Get Out, was not that it rips on Trump, Trump voters, or even white people in general. What the movie actually does is firebomb the white, liberal elite; those same ones that were sure Hillary Clinton had the election in the bag. At one point, a terrific Bradley Whitford, who plays main character Chris’ girlfriend’s father, tells Chris that if he could have, he would have voted for Obama a third time. This sort of forced validation with the “black” community that Chris represents shows how out of touch these people really are.

I’m not going to go too much further into the plot, but what I can tell you, is that this movie definitely did its job in making me horribly uncomfortable. Being a white liberal, I could just feel the awkwardness of Bradley Whitford and his wife (played by an awesomely creepy Catherine Keener) almost giving each other pats on the back of how accepting they are of their white daughter’s new black boyfriend. The musical score does its job to inflict unease (with the exception of one over-the-top section at the end of the film), but the most discomfort is caused by the characters’ interactions. While there are plenty of classically tense “horror” moments in this, these moments are the most uncomfortable. And trust me, there are plenty of them.

I think my favorite performance in the film came from Caleb Landry Jones, the brother of Chris’ girlfriend. From the get-go, you can tell the character is off his rocker and it is one of the more well-acted pieces in the film. There is a dinner scene in which I was sinking further and further into my chair as the tension built. There are also moments which made me think of films like Rosemary’s Baby and Under the Skin, where the movie almost descends into a dreamlike abyss, causing you to feel the worst case of inescapability. At one point, Chris is hypnotized and his state of claustrophobia was nearly infectious upon me.

Get Out is not a horror movie in the classic sense. Yes, there are jump scares and there is some pretty gruesome violence. In all reality though, this is Jordan Peele’s living nightmare on film. He took what he saw was happening in our country and all over the world, and made it into a film. Our world has become a pretty horrific place for a lot of us, and there are funny moments, as well as really uncomfortable ones. We do not treat each other right, and we have not been treating each other right for a long time. This is the movie that shows us just how awful it has gotten – and that is the most horrific part of Get Out.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: Rosemary’s Baby, Green Room, The Stepford Wives 

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Stranger Things

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Stranger Things (2016) – Science Fiction | Horror

Created by: The Duffer Brothers

Starring: David Harbour and Winona Ryder

How I Watched: Netflix

Best Line: “Mouth-breather.”

Stranger Things is technically a television program. What it plays like, however, is the best 7-hour movie that you’ve never seen. For this reason, I have decided to review the series as a film. Stranger Things begins all too familiar. We are immediately reminded of the Spielberg family-scapes of a 1980’s suburbia and given to a not-so-motley crew of nerdy kids that even The Goonies would probably bully. The 80’s worship does not stop there, though. Everyone enjoys a good helping of neon, John Hughes inspired feels and a good Reagan-era pop hit, but Stranger Things takes the decade and molds the story around it.

I was born in the 1980’s. Before I was 5, though, they were over. I can’t really say I know what the decade was actually like, but I’ve always felt a strange kinship to its music, movies and pop culture. So whenever someone makes the creative choice of setting their story in the 80’s, I’m usually intrigued. Donnie Darko did an excellent job making you feel like you were watching something made in the 1980’s and Stranger Things is no different. The music is blissfully extreme in its synth-heavy soundscape, evoking the most insane crescendos in John Carpenter films. The characters’ fashion choices are tamed but convincing, and even a lot of the architecture looks as though it was ripped from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Matthew Modine and Winona Ryder hold their respective places in 1980’s filmdom. Ryder is excellent as a grieving mother in the series, slowly descending into understandable craziness while she desperately searches for her son. Modine plays a soft-spoken and mysterious doctor in a laboratory on the outskirts of town, and his looming, often creepy presence grows as the show progresses. Perhaps the most impressive character among the show’s adults, though, is that of David Harbour’s Sherriff Jim Hopper. We’ve all seen Harbour before in small parts (TV and film) but this is really a breakout role for him, as he excellently guides the cast through the series’ ups and downs.

The real stars of the series though, are the four geeky kids mentioned earlier. Never have I been more impressed with children acting than I have with Stranger Things. Led by the spectacular Finn Wolfhard as Mike (who has been cast as Richie Tozier in the new 2017 incarnation of IT), these three boys never give up looking for their friend Will who goes missing in the first installment. Will does not get much screen time, but when he does, he steals every frame. The actors playing Dustin and Lucas are excellent as well, battling bullies and difficulties of middle school life as D&D loving dorks. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is also a really cool character and the focus on her storyline grows throughout the series.

I think what impressed me most about Stranger Things was its ability to take so liberally from those projects that inspired it, and make it its own original story. At times, you’ll feel you’ve seen certain scenes before, whether it’s the bike chase scene in E.T., an alternate universe in Poltergeist or Under the Skin, telekinetic abilities in Stephen King stories like Carrie, a synth-heavy montage in a Carpenter flick…the list goes on and on. Once you watch it yourself, you’ll probably even discover nods yourself that I never would have thought of. It’s really incredible how well the Duffers acknowledge their influences in this.

It’s hard to put into words how much I really loved Stranger Things. It’s become so easy to just sit for hours and “binge” on shows featured on Netflix. But when a project like this comes out and there are only eight nearly hour-long episodes, it really becomes a feature film. A couple “episodes” in, you’re going to be facing a tough choice, just like I did: “I know it’s late, but this is so damn good. I need to finish this.” I suggest you do just that before someone ruins Stranger Things for you.

Final Score: 4/4

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Similar Films: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, The Goonies, Poltergeist