Originally from Michigan but educated in the south by the Savannah College of Art and Design, Jacob Ethington is a playwright and screenwriter who's always willing to relocate if necessary. Excerpts of his work are available to read on this site along with blog posts about media that he loves.

"Get Out" (2017) Review

"Get Out" (2017) Review

It's been over a year since Get Out was released.

It doesn't feel that long, my memories of seeing the film twice on opening weekend are still pretty clear. I've meant to write this review for a long time, but I didn't know how to write it. I didn't know how to tackle a full review on this site of a film that is so masterfully crafted and expertly written, all from a director making his film debut (I didn't call this my favorite film of 2017 for nothing). And that debut smashed box office records, set the horror film community on fire, and was so undeniably fantastic that the Academy Awards, notorious for snubbing horror films, has nominated Get Out for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay.

With the Academy Awards rapidly approaching plus the fact that many of my friends and family have finally caught up with the movie due to its nominations, it's now or never. It's time to review an undeniable horror masterpiece, and a masterpiece that's contingent on one of the better third act twists that the genre has to offer.

That last part is why I've held off so long on writing a review. This is the kind of film that relies on the strength of its hidden reveal. The story is effectively a mystery, and it turns out that the mystery literally changes the entire narrative up to that point. Every scene in Get Out that precedes its reveal is effected by that reveal, even small details that seem like offhanded comments from characters. Get Out literally has one of the best horror thriller screenplays from a sheer structural perspective (and it not only deserves its nomination for Best Original Screenplay, it deserves to win the category).

What story that can be discussed is fairly simple on paper. A black man named Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya, nominated for Best Actor) is nervous about meeting the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). The initial meeting is awkward with her surgeon father Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) and her hypnotist mother Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), and especially with her college student brother Jeremy Armitage (Caleb Landry Jones). They all vary in their opinions of Chris' race, but Chris is especially weirded out by the family's black groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and the black maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel). They act in strange ways that sets Chris off of his axis, but nothing creeps him out as much as his encounter with the entire extended family. Something is incredibly wrong at the Armitage estate, and Chris is at the center of it whether he wants to be or not.

The actors in this movie give these characters everything they've got. Some of them are only on screen for brief scenes, but even minor performers like Stephen Root (famous for his part of Milton in Office Space) are great in small scenes. It's hard to single out specific actors in the supporting cast because everyone is just so damn on point, but Catherine Keener as the hypnotist is particularly memorable. She's at the center of one of the film's most iconic scenes for good reason, and she's the kind of quiet performance in a horror film that builds atmosphere by just being in a scene at all.

The film is relentlessly tense and awkward, but the one who relieves the stress more often than not is Chris' best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery). Rod is one of the funniest characters in a horror film and practically speaks to the id of any audience who wants Chris to get the hell out of the Armitage estate. He's not just comic relief though and ends up being an unexpectedly large presence in the story.

Backing all of this up is some really nice cinematography. A few of the scenes don't feel as carefully constructed in terms of shot design as others, but most scenes feel so deliberately constructed that you can't believe that Jordan Peele has never made a feature length film up to this point (one scene involving Georgina in particular is so perfectly shot that it still tenses me up every time I see it).

On top of that, the original score in this movie is just creepy and beautiful. The score is composed by Michael Abels, a man that I was stunned to learn had never composed a film score before. He's composed several orchestral pieces for concerts, but Get Out is (so far) the only film he's lent his talents to. The opening and closing piece called Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga is one of those horror themes that'll stick in your memory for a long long time.

Last but not least in this review though, I have to put one asterisk on this film, a slight caveat. It's not a bad caveat though, but a recommendation. If you plan on seeing Get Out, don't watch it once. Watch it twice.

When I saw Get Out on opening weekend for the first time, I really enjoyed it. I felt that the hype was a little overblown, but I felt that it was a kickass semi-old school horror thriller with a great allegorical twist. That's a lot of praise, but there were other horror films in the past five years that I enjoyed a lot more for various reasons, The Witch (2016) and The Babadook (2015) in particular (these are/were my favorite horror films of the last ten years).

The second time through on opening weekend was revelatory. It immediately jumped right into the pantheon of The Witch and The Babadook, a legitimate modern horror classic. A lot of horror films don't exactly improve on repeat viewings, with some horror films I enjoyed the first time through degrading over repeat viewings. Get Out is absolute inverse, a horror thriller that improves each time you watch it.

To paraphrase from my Top Films of 2017 post, Get Out is the rare horror film that improves the second time through, and the twist is absolutely the reason that it does. But there's a more important reason that the twist works. The biggest problem that horror films face with making a huge reveal is that the reveal rarely can live up to what your imagination can come up with. Not only does Get Out surpass your imagination, its twist also functions as an allegory so clear and laser focused that its intentions can't be misinterpreted or ignored. 

Get Out is a real deal horror masterpiece and my personal favorite film of 2017. We're going to talk about this movie for years to come, and if it wins some Academy Awards, it's definitely going to stay in the mainstream film discussion for decades. It's going to stay in the mainstream film discussion for decades anyway, but the awards certainly wouldn't hurt.

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