Back in our Brutal As Hell days, co-editor Keri O’Shea and myself would from time to time forego the conventional review approach in favour of a one-on-one discussion. This is an approach we’ve often favoured when the film in question was already the subject of widespread debate, which it seems fair to say has been the case with the film we’ve chosen to discuss here, in our first such conversation since relaunching as Warped Perspective. The debut feature from writer-director Jordan Peele but the latest in a very long line of mainstream genre releases from production company Blumhouse, Get Out is easily the most widely praised horror film of 2017 thus far, whilst also being the most commercially successful; two things which do not necessarily coincide most of the time. Naturally this was enough to get both of us interested – and happily, neither of us came out disappointed.
Hopefully as it’s already been out upwards of a week, a good many readers will have already seen the film, but we’re not making any assumptions there, so I will forewarn you that we do get heavily into spoilers early into the discussion – if in doubt, don’t read beyond the warning below…
Keri: So… Get Out then…
Ben: Yes. So I suspect there’s no way we can discuss this at length without spoilering the shit out of it, so if we start out by keeping it safe for the uninitiated – what do you think of it?
Keri: Now that the dust has settled, I have to say I’m pretty impressed. I’ve always been more critical than enthusiastic about Blumhouse films but this was one of the better ones for me. You?
Ben: Likewise really. Blumhouse has for better or worse been the face of mainstream horror for, god, more or less the past ten years now, but this is the first time in a long time they’ve produced something genuinely surprising. Having said that, they also produced Whiplash, which was pretty special, but outside their usual genre remit.
Keri: That I have not seen, to be fair. So did Get out keep you guessing? It did, for me. I thought we’d be getting a torture porn which riffed on racial tensions.
Ben: Well, despite avoiding reviews I’d glimpsed enough tweets and FB posts on the subject to fill in the blanks early on, annoyingly. Because otherwise I don’t think I would have had the first clue what was coming. It feels like more or less the first hour is just building intrigue; sometimes that approach can backfire, but not here.
Keri: I saw and read nothing – one of the perks to being online a lot less. And yes, say what you will about the ‘twist’, I didn’t expect it.
***CAUTION: SPOILERS ABOUND FROM THIS POINT ON…***
Keri: it reminded me of some other films, strangely – Being John Malkovich being one of the main ones. How successful do you think the sci-fi elements were? (I suppose ‘sci-fi’ is the best fit term for what eventually happens.)
Ben: I guess you could class it as sci-fi but I didn’t really think of it in those terms; I suppose more of a mad scientist thing. Particularly with the hypnosis element, there did seem to be some mystical overtones. Either way, for me it worked, but it was of course a pretty audacious conceit which I can imagine wouldn’t go down well everywhere.
Keri: Yeah – initially, I wasn’t sure. I think it works for me a little better when I look at it from a more allegorical point of view, but it’s definitely audacious. And one of the things I’ll remember the film for. Hypnotism in horror (sorry, ‘social thriller’, Jordan Peele) is often overlooked, too – but it crops up a lot. It worked here I think. Subtle, but devastating.
Ben: ‘Social thriller,’ is that really a term he used?
Keri: Yes it is. Which seems an odd decision given he’s written a film about kidnap, mental torture, personality transplants and eerie hypnotism. That old ‘H word’ thing again I suppose…
Ben: Oh well. Bad luck then, because it was produced by a company known for horror, was promoted as horror, and quite clearly it bloody well IS a horror film. But some people will always be anxious to insist that something is somehow ‘more’ than horror, when what they really want to say is ‘it’s not for morons.’
Keri: It’s silly snobbery. And yeah, as you point out, daft given the Blumhouse connection. Anyway, if you’re reading, Mr Peele, a ‘social thriller’ is not a thing.
Ben: And yeah, this clearly is an intelligent horror film which pretty much demands the viewer look below the surface and read between the lines. I went in imagining it was probably going to turn into some sort of Klan thing, but the threat here is very different to that.
Keri: Indeed. That all said, however ingenious some of the twists are, it was in the most homely elements that I really found myself wincing. The conversations between the achingly ‘Liberal’ parents and Chris, played with proper conviction by Daniel Kaluuya….my god….
Ben: Definitely. Even if you disregard the racial factor, everyone can relate to the awkwardness of meeting the partner’s parents for the first time. But then, the whole point is that you really can’t ignore the racial factor.
Keri: If the film had gone no further than the meal, I think it would still have been a film which made me wince. I think the tension is really palpable.
Ben: It’s great how that initial discomfort gradually builds into weirdness, largely via the (urgh) ‘help.’ It fascinated me, too, how tears were utilised to sinister effect. I struggle to think of any times I’ve found shots of teardrops quite so unnerving as I did here, first when Chris is hypnotised, next when he confronts the Maid.
Keri: Yes! Not sadness, but the last gasp of selfhood. I don’t think I’ve seen it done quite like that before, you’re right.
Ben: That in a way summed up what I liked about the film – it seemed to come up with genuinely new ideas. That can be hard to find in horror full stop, let alone mainstream. All the more impressive given it’s the work of someone who doesn’t have a background in the genre. That having been said, while I’m aware of Key & Peele, I must admit I’ve never seen any of their comedy shows, or their movie Keanu – have you?
Keri: Nope, I haven’t. Certainly a change, for them. Which I guess leads me onto another question: what did you think of the comic turn in Get Out?
Ben: I actually thought he was brilliant. Hang on, just looking up his name on IMDb…
Keri: I liked him. It’s a risk chucking a funny guy into a very dark film but I think he added a good bit of warmth to the film, as well as being one of the only humans in it who wasn’t a self-serving shit.
Ben: (back from IMDb) LilRel Howery! Yeah, I thought he was hilarious. It was a character that could have been annoying and out of place in many other horror films, but here it was definitely needed. Because it IS a fucking ridiculous central idea, and the film needed to acknowledge that.
Keri: Yes….and his madcap idea was actually correct! Which I guess is a nice bit of self-referential content there. Well, okay, ‘sex slaves’ might have been a bit strong but sex was a key factor…
Ben: Indeed, hence the daughter’s softly-softly approach of drawing in potential bodies, indulging her own appetites, whereas the brother indulges his obvious love of violence. Another thing that made it all the creepier; that was one damned dysfunctional family unit.
Keri: Like Society, minus that kind of body horror. Rose, for me, was a scary character. Her brother is equally so but more honest (Caleb Landry Jones is genuinely creepy in it, by the way). One of my favourite moments in the film was the discovery of the box of photos…
Ben: Yeah; up to that point, we’re given no reason to think she’s in on it. Which on the one hand makes you question why she would play it out for so long and convince Chris she’s in love with him – but that’s just part of her game. Makes it all the crueller.
Keri: Yeah. “You were one of my favourites…”
Ben: And THEN she’s 100% white girl, listening to the song from Dirty Dancing. 🙂
Keri: Wonder if the white collar at the end is deliberate? She’s sat upstairs looking like a posh secretary! Before the gun comes out, of course… Good baddie performance from her actually. She had me convinced. I thought she was flaky but innocent. It’s good when you get the reveal just as the lead character does…
Ben: White shirt and khaki trousers – she’s a pure big game hunter by the end, as the cuddly lion kind of foreshadows.
Keri: Yeah, good spotting actually.
Ben: And yeah, it was a great reveal. I don’t imagine you’ve seen Frozen (Disney, not Adam Green) but believe it or not they achieve a similar feat!
Keri: I’ve seen the one where people get stuck on a cable car but apparently there’s a different one? 🙂
Ben: Well, that’s not the version my daughter requests to watch on DVD at least once a bloody week… 🙂
Keri: I was just impressed that Adam Green has managed to impress so many kids with his film but there you go. There’s one with songs and that.
Ben: So yeah, I think we’ve covered most of this now; shall we wrap up with some final thoughts?
Keri: I suppose a fair amount of respect that a fairly high-profile horror film has managed to do so many quite daring, interesting things. Not a handheld camera in sight. Kudos.
Ben: And it managed to have someone tied to a chair without pissing you off too much.
Keri: Yeah. Maybe because in my head I’m quoting Father Ted: “He’s been worrying the armrests again!”
Ben: Heheh. Also – best use of antlers since Silent Night, Deadly Night. I loved that it didn’t shy away from ridiculous crowd-pleasing violence by the end. That kind of underlines the real strength of Get Out for me: yes, it was intelligent and socially conscious, dealing with sophisticated ideas about cultural appropriation/assimilation, but it still ticked all the boxes for a tense and entertaining horror movie.
Keri: Absolutely. And how cathartic when these people finally got twatted. A good film which plenty going on, all told! I’d recommend it. It has smart things to say. Heh heh, “best use of antlers.”
Ben: And very encouraging indeed that it actually seems to be going down well with regular punters as well as the critics and the horror devotees. Succeeding where It Follows and The Witch didn’t quite make it. (Though they’re clearly very, very different films.)
Keri: Some girls at the side of me clapped at the end. That almost never happens outside of film festivals. A fair result, then.