Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #640
Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 24, 2017 (Sundance)
Sub-Genre: Psychological Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $241,000,000
Running Time: 103 minutes
Director: Jordan Peele
Producers: Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Jordan Peele
Screenplay: Jordan Peele
Special Effects: Joe Savva, Scott Wheeler
Cinematography: Toby Oliver
Score: Michael Abels
Editing: Gregory Plotkin
Studios: Blumhouse Productions, QC Entertainment, Monkeypaw Productions
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lil Rel Howery, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Catherine Keener, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, LaKeith Stanfield, Erika Alexander
Suggested Audio Jukebox ☯
 Stevie Wonder & Paul McCartney “Ebony & Ivory”
 Childish Gambino “Redbone”
 Loose Ends “Watching You”
 Flanagan and Allen “Run Rabbit Run”
 The Animals “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”
Is it just me or did the whole race debate get old way back in the eighties? Not wishing to be flippant, but it all feels so dreadfully old hat now, and it troubles me that folk are still getting hett up about the same tired old topics. The last thing I want to do is make light of something that has clearly been such a bone of contention to so many; but it boggles my mind that it’s still such an issue in this day and age. It’s easy for me to get on my soapbox about it as I was raised to respect everyone, regardless of the color of their skin and don’t give a Frisbee-shaped fuck whether you’re black, white, yellow or deep purple.
I also fully appreciate the amount of prejudice and hardship certain ethnic groups have faced and adversity they’ve overcome and would never make light of that. But the year is 2017 and there are far more pressing concerns for mankind than something as utterly trivial as ethnicity. Here’s a suggestion – why don’t we all just get along? Easier said than done I know but I live in perpetual hope that the penny can finally drop and we can place something else on the agenda for a frigging change.
Bi-racial filmmaker Jordan Peele’s debut feature Get Out tackles the very topic of simmering racial tensions and, I have to come clean, when I first saw the trailer it left me somewhat cold. It’s almost thirty years since I watched Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever and the whole “guess who’s coming to dinner” angle no longer holds any great appeal to me.
However, the film evidently struck a chord with cinemagoers both black and white as it has gone on to gross nearly a quarter of a billion in box office receipts alone and critics have been pretty much unanimous in their praise. Ordinarily I’d have provided Peele’s film a wide berth but there was obviously more to his movie than a simple tale of deep south discrimination and I felt compelled to find out what all of the fuss was about.
With curiosity now piqued, I decided to do a little harmless digging and was further intrigued by what I found out. Peele may only just be cutting his teeth as a filmmaker but he’s been doing the rounds on the comedy circuit since the start of the millennium and has amassed almost fifty acting credits over the past decade. His inspiration for Get Out came from an old Eddie Murphy skit which centered around him meeting his Caucasian girlfriend’s parents for the first time.
Interestingly, Peele originally intended Murphy to play the lead before he was deemed too old for the role. Given that my all-time favorite stand-up routine is Murphy’s Delirious, I know just how influential he could be. Indeed, it is thanks to him that I know how to dodge an airborne slipper, ignore the ice cream van’s tantalizing jingles, fear Aunt Bunny and her monstrous mustache, and always ensure that G.I. Joe is with me at bath time to fend off the big brown sharks.
Peele originally wrote the screenplay during Barack Obama’s first term as president-elect and decided there would be little interest for a film about xenophobia when the climate appeared to be changing. Thus he wrote it purely for himself and it wasn’t until further down the line, when racial discrimination once again began to rear its ugly head, that he felt justified in taking his pet project to the next level.
After a secret midnight screening at the Sundance Film Festival and, with the might of Blumhouse Productions backing it all the way, Get Out had no trouble locating its audience and its tremendous critical and financial success has positioned this talented New Yorker dead centre of many a radar. I don’t need a crystal ball to know we’ll be hearing rather a lot about Peele in years to come and few can argue he hasn’t earned his place in the spotlight.
Dark-skinned black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his pasty white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) are in transit, en route to the house she grew up in to meet the parents. Upper-class liberal Rose appears relaxed enough about the prospect, regardless of the fact that her new boyfriend’s ethnicity hasn’t yet come up in conversation, whereas Chris is feeling a darn sight more apprehensive.
He’s quite aware of the elephant in the room as Rose has never dated a black guy before but she swiftly reassures him that her parents are a progressive pair and is just as quick to point out that her dad would’ve voted for Obama a third time if the option had presented itself. Chris takes a pill for team chill and, one instance of venison-themed roadkill aside, they arrive at the Armitage country mansion primed for this somewhat critical meet and greet.
First things first Chrissy boy – nice fucking digs. Play your cards right sonny and one day this could all be yours. Secondly, I’m not altogether sure what all the fuss was over as distinguished neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford) and his psychiatrist/hypnotherapist wife Missy (Catherine Keener) couldn’t appear any more congenial and hospitable. Granted, you could argue they’re trying a little too hard to remind you how progressive they are and there may have been the odd awkward moment.
But that has nothing to do with the hue of your skin; more the fact that you know damn well what you’ll be sticking in their cherished daughter the moment you’ve unpacked those weekend travel bags. No sign of her brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) but working on the principal that felled apples don’t stray far from the orchard, I’m certain he’s a good egg too.
Not wishing to put the wind up you buddy but we have now arrived at DEFCON 2. I’m sure it’s little more than coincidence that both the Armitage family housekeeper and live-in groundskeeper are of African-American persuasion and there’s no reason to emit any involuntary gases just yet. That said, is it just me, or do neither Georgina (Betty Gabriel) or Walter (Marcus Henderson) appear altogether comfortable in their roles?
It’s the eyes you see. I could be reading way too much into this but it’s almost like they’re screaming in silence through the only true windows to their souls. There’s something mighty Django about all this although, to be fair, Dean was quick to address the whole wealthy white couple, black help deal and it seems to tally up. Kinda.
Okay so I’m now a little perturbed as we have officially reached DEFCON 3. Dinner was a reasonably incident free affair, until Rose’s spoiled sibling Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) bowled in fashionably late and well over half cut. While you can’t fault his boundless enthusiasm or knowledge of MMA fighting, it’s the constant need for attention that makes me vaguely uneasy, particularly when it entails playful grappling around the dinner table with someone he doesn’t know from Adam. Isn’t that a tad over-familiar? Moreover, is his behavior veering from passive to downright aggressive? I’d watch my back if I were you Chris and be grateful your doting girlfriend is on hand to pacify any other “situations” that may accrue during your stay here.
DEFCON 4 dude. It’s no great revelation that you’ve been suffering the odd night terror after the day you’ve just had but heading out for a cheeky smoke may well have been a dick move you know. There’s something about a brother charging towards you all “Geronimo!” in the dead of night that cannot help but rattle one’s rollcage.
Mercifully, Missy was burning the midnight oils and helped to settle those fast-fraying nerves some and it was nothing a nice cup of tea couldn’t fix. Thanks to Missy and “the sunken place” she kindly introduced you to, crisis was promptly averted, and a dash of impromptu hypnosis was all it took to finally give up the cancer sticks so all’s well that ends that way right? Then why is that sinking feeling not going away?
Right then, pack those bags son as DEFCON 5 is now well and truly upon us and the old saying “there’s no smoke without fire” is quite evidently applicable at the Armitages. Not only was one of the guests at their annual get-together, Logan King (LaKeith Stanfield), a little too “Attack of The Carlton Clones” for my personal comfort, but he also seemed mighty familiar don’t cha think?
That winning smile of his didn’t half look like it was concealing a grimace. Of course, you weren’t to know that poor Logan would throw a nosebleeding wobbler when you snapped him inconspicuously with your smart phone, but I’d hedge a fairly hefty bet that wasn’t no epileptic seizure he suffered.
If I were you Chris, I’d drop your best buddy Rod (Lil Rel Howery) a line before you make those polite apologies and get the hell out as he’s the only one who knows your whereabouts and his experience as a TSA officer could yet come in handy. Other than that, I’d stick to Rose like a knee scab as, with the Armitage clan giving fresh meaning to the term “white devils”, she’s clearly the only one in this stifling hell hole you can trust right now.
Actually scrap that, Missy just brewed up a fresh cuppa and it would appear positively discourteous not to partake in just one for the road. As a matter of fact, I can hear her right now stirring the cream in. It’s a longer walk home from here than Sister Rosa ever could have managed with her bunions, especially without a hot beverage inside you. Take the weight off those feet Chris and please ignore all my paranoid delusion as I’m sure this has all been one big misunderstanding.
That’s as far as I’m willing to sink where Chris’s plight is concerned as you should all know approximately where it’s headed and don’t need me to spell that shit out. Instead, I wish to offer Peele up some kudos as his extensive comedy background is fundamental in elevating Get Out to an entirely different level than envisaged. Horror and humor go together like peas and carrots with a deft enough touch as it is a rather glorious way to modulate the tension.
However, Peele somehow crams a couple of full-blown skits into his runtime, without compromising the steadily ratcheting suspense in the slightest. He also has time to offer gentle critique of whites who celebrate black people in an all too-proprietary way and, while there’s definite social subtext about post-Obama America here, he doesn’t let political agenda get in the way of keeping his audience on tenterhooks.
His screenplay is meticulous in its detail, it looks and sounds the part (no less than we would expect of a Blumhouse production), and the entire cast are absolutely spot-on. Both Kaluuya and Williams (in her very first film part) excel in challenging leading roles, and the former uses his ever-widening peepers to convey every ounce of his character’s gradually accelerating consternation.
As a long-time admirer of Keener, I’d say casting doesn’t get much more inspired, as she has an effortlessly friendly demeanor by default and Peele draws on this to reel us in hook, line and sinker as he prepares to land the telling sucker punch. Meanwhile, Howery’s task may seem little more than to provide the token black guy light humor, but it winds up far more than mere tension-breaker.
Most critically, Get Out succeeds as a psychological horror movie first and foremost; with a vibe of The Stepford Wives but with more than enough identity of its own going on to be pigeon-holed alongside Ira Levin’s 1972 novel, obvious parallels aside. Its burn is an intentionally slow one and, when you strip it back to the barest bones, there’s not a great deal here that we haven’t seen numerous times before.
But there’s more to its financial fortitude than the inevitable Blumhouse bells and whistles and, in Jordan Peele, we appear to have struck oil you know. Quick, tell that nice Dean Armitage fellow and perhaps he’ll give us all the rest of the day off. Dear old Missy has very kindly offered to supply the afternoon tea. Not looking to cause a stir, but do you reckon she’d be put out terribly if I request mine black?
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: With all those simmering racial tensions, you just know shit’s going to hit the fan eventually and, when that moment comes, Peele lays it on nice and thick. It’s not so much what we see here with regards to actual on-screen violence as the gusto behind each blow landed that gets the blood circulating and these instances, while a long time coming, pack the relevant thwack to convince us the clown shoes have been packed away.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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