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'Get Out': Guess Who's Coming to be Terrorized?
By Michael S. Goldberger, iBerkshires Film Critic
02:03PM / Thursday, March 02, 2017
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It is an eerie, unsettling experience when your every instinct smells dangerous deceit and yet numerous people claiming authority discount your fears as just so much paranoia and curious distrust. Worse even yet is when such shifty characters then try to convince you, despite their most egregious actions, that they have only your best interests at heart. You know they're lying. It's called the "Gaslight" effect, named after the 1944 film by that title starring Charles Boyer as the creepy husband plying said treachery on his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman.

While this ugly contemplation may be misinterpreted as a reference to current affairs, that would be just too unthinkable. I write here not of political horror, but of another motion picture version of such perfidy in action, the title of which unequivocally issues the warning, "Get Out." Still, before moving on to my critique, it behooves to allay the dismay of those who stubbornly infer the accidental analogy.

Be gladdened to know that, at the conclusion of "Gaslight," Joseph Cotten's Brian Cameron, who the patriotically inclined might see as representing the American Public, defeats the greedily duplicitous Boyer, hence freeing Bergman's beautiful, innocent Paula, ostensibly the poetic embodiment of Constitutional Democracy. To further humor those who insist I'm implying a parallel, it bears noting that Ms. Bergman was an immigrant.

But enough of dispelling the correlations suspected by my conspiracy-theorizing base. At last seguing into director Jordan Peele's rather nifty scare tactic, be apprised that much of the comedy relief that intertwines with his well-written fright fest satirically informs the plot's racial ruminations.

Daniel Kaluuya's Chris Washington, an African-American photographer of some note, has been invited by Allison Williams' Rose Armitage, his white girlfriend, to meet her parents. Of course Mom and Pop live in a secluded, upstate New York hamlet. Y'know, lots of woods, desolation and spooky background music.

We are thus on alert. And though we know it's probably a useless cause, we nonetheless brace ourselves in the hope that we might limit the number of times our hearts jump from our bodies. But dear reader, at the risk of being admonished for leaking secret information, in good conscience I must relate that not much of that jouncing happens here. I was especially disappointed in not having to fend off the old reliable cat jumping on the windowsill and sending the pull shade into a twirling clackity-clack. This is far more insidious stuff.

We feel uncomfortable for Chris when he meets the obviously quirky Dr. & Dr. Armitage. For starters, they seem a tad phony-liberal, especially after they relate that they would have voted for Obama a third time if they could. Missy, played by Catherine Keener, is a psychiatrist who, when she learns that Chris smokes, immediately suggests hypnosis. He'd rather not, even though Dean, Rose's neurosurgeon dad, portrayed by Bradley Whitford, assures him that wifey is quite effective. Ooh, we bet she is.

It is at this pivotal juncture when the hairs on the back of your neck warn that Chris might be in trouble. It's awkward because, gosh, he really loves Rose, and maybe the docs are just whacky but ultimately harmless. Then again, if history has taught Chris anything, it's that people thinking "maybe it won't be so bad" often leads to tragic consequences. A family gathering the next day, kind of like a pep rally version of "The Stepford Wives" (1975) meets "Invasion of The Body Snatchers" (1956), brings some really screwy people to the Armitages' defense.

But the shindig comprised of seemingly brainwashed bluebloods who indiscreetly contemplate Chris' athletic prowess courtesy of his DNA, only makes things worse. Who are these weirdos? Yet maybe since no one actually says, "I am the least racist person you have ever met," Chris still hopes that it's all just a temporary nightmare. We aren't quite so tolerant, and since we don't necessarily love Rose, we begin to mutter, "Get out!"

The witty, socially charged amalgam of evildoing that follows, whimsically defying movie genre labels, imbues the subsequent unraveling of heinous motivations with a frightening credibility. Expect no gratuitous slice and dice here. Indeed, there is a cathartic quotient of physical violence let loose when push-comes-to-shove. But the near brilliance of Mr. Peale's satirical slant is in his allegorical depiction of the terror that attacks us not from outside, but from within our own species.

In other words, real horror resides in how sociopathic types with misanthropic, elitist motives have no compunction about divisively tapping into our natural fears to weave their aberrantly wicked web, all the while professing that it is for our own good. Wrapping this human pathology in the construct of a traditional horror movie, "Get Out" delivers an unusually amusing escape to reality.

"Get Out," rated R, is a Universal Pictures release directed by Jordan Peele and stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams and Catherine Keener. Running time: 103 minutes

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