GET OUT. My (relatively) recent enthusiasm for modern independent horror movies seemed to be on a precipitous slide toward its nadir of late. It was a startling thing to discover, years ago, that directors like James Wan (whom I had written off as part of the cynical torture-porn boom) and producers like Jason Blum were actually making inventive, enjoyable horror movies. It was a pleasant surprise but a shock nonetheless. The prospect of reanimating the mutilated corpse of American independent cinema gleamed with possibility, however faint. There followed a near glut of indie-horror as arthouse movies, alongside a slew of uninspired, low-grade slash/scare stuff. Not surprisingly, greed seemed to have won the day; the check-writers read the signs and flooded the market. Granted, some of the output was and is legitimately good, fun and artful. The boom lead to the "discovery" of some writers and directors who hopefully and deservedly will go on to long and successful careers. But it also crammed a lot of garbage down the throat of an audience that I think, despite my occasional instincts to the contrary, deserves better.
We will undoubtedly continue to suffer through dull, disappointing murder movies defined by cheap thrills. They are, after all, inexpensive to make and almost guaranteed to turn a profit; they're not going anywhere. At the same time, enthusiasm for their further-reaching, potentially pretentious, auteur-type horror picture seems to be waning. This cooling off, in the midst of the current catastrophic cultural climate, seems to have created a near-perfect moment for Jordan Peele's Get Out.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) have been dating for several months. She's arranged a weekend trip for him to meet her parents at their place in the country. Rightfully apprehensive, Chris goes along with the plan, reassured by Rose that everything will be fine. But weird vibes start in early: Rose's mom Missy (Catherine Keener) insists on hypnotizing Chris; brother Jeremey (Caleb Landry Jones) manifests cretinous, faux-friendly bro aggression; something's not quite right with the household servants. And when the guests arrive for the family's annual gathering, the atmosphere transitions from mildly uncomfortable to ominously creepy to overtly dangerous.
Get Out succeeds for a great number of reasons. It comments on racism in America slyly and effectively, to be sure — that alone is enough for a longer, more thoughtful and thorough exegesis that might require spoilers (best left to someone else, in other words). In terms of storytelling, though, it works because it cultivates a mood of creeping psychological weirdness and terror, underpinned with humor — rare to find these days. It shares more, in style as well as substance, with the heady, claustrophobic horror of the '60s and '70s than its more visceral contemporaries. Long, lingering takes elevate the atmosphere, creating a richly detailed setting for the story as it plays out. There are a few "gotcha" moments (gotta be, right?) but by and large Peele leans into his controlled aesthetic, his deliberate pace, to achieve the desired effect. He is helped greatly in this aim, of course, by a tremendous cast: Kaluuya, who played a small but pivotal part in the amazing Sicario (2015) strikes a remarkable balance between self-reliance and vulnerability; Williams is devious and magnetic; Keener is customarily great and the criminally underappreciated Bradley Whitford does a frightful, nuanced, too-chummy turn as Rose's dad, Dean.
Coming when it has, as the dust settles from the horror hoopla of the last few years, Get Out is better able to stand out and be recognized. It is a truly accomplished work, technically, thematically and as entertainment. Good-looking, scary, funny and refreshingly original, it is as hopeful artistically as it is dire in its allegory. R. 103m. BROADWAY.
COLLIDE. Cards on the table: Opening a movie with a car chase on the Autobahn is a pretty good way to win favor with me. So despite the fact that I have become generally wary of these modern action movies (read: pretty much sick of them), this one got me on board in the early going. The fact that it boasts an incongruously astounding cast doesn't hurt either. The plot, boilerplate as is, doesn't do anybody any favors, but still.
Casey (Nicholas Hoult), an American in Cologne, Germany, makes a little money slinging party pills for outlandish Turkish gangster Geran (Ben Kingsley). Casey falls for an ex-pat bartender named Juliette (Felicity Jones) but she doesn't like drug dealers. Casey quits his job, goes to work in a scrap yard, and he and Juliette enter a period of new-love bliss. Because nothing is simple, it turns out that Juliette needs a kidney transplant. This of course costs more money than a bartender and a scrap jockey are likely to scrape together, so Casey goes back to his old boss looking for more lucrative work. Fortunately, Geran wants to make a move on his own employer, the formidable, SS-born, British-educated Hagen Kahl (Anthony Hopkins). Perfect fit: Turns out Casey's an expert car thief and Geran wants to hijack one of Kahl's trucks. This is easier said than done. Many car chases ensue.
Maybe because the bar has been set so sickeningly low, Collide exceeded my expectations: It's actually entertaining and universally solid performances elevate rather unremarkable material. Hoult and Jones make a convincing couple in love, and Kingsley and Hopkins are both clearly having a great timing devouring the scenery. The action set pieces won't set any precedents but they don't disappoint, either. PG13. 99m. BROADWAY.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
BEFORE I FALL. A young woman (Zoey Deutch) is stuck in a Groundhog Day loop trying to solve the mystery of her own death. PG13. 99m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO. Filmmaker Raoul Peck uses historical footage, interviews and author James Baldwin's unfinished book about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. to tell the story of the Civil Rights movement. PG13. 99m. MINIPLEX.
LOGAN. In this Wolverine sequel, the angsty, sideburned hero is holed up in the desert with a frail Professor X and saddled with a mutant girl with claws and anger management issues like his own. R. 135m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
THE SHACK. A grieving father (Sam Worthington) receives a mysterious invitation and goes on a magical sojourn. With Octavia Spencer. PG13. 132m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA.
TABLE 19. Rom-com about a freshly dumped and demoted maid of honor (Anna Kendrick) banished to a table of misfit wedding guests. PG13. 87m. BROADWAY.
REAR WINDOW (1954). Jimmy Stewart stars as a sidelined photographer who witnesses a possible murder in this Alfred Hitchcock classic. With Grace Kelly and Raymond Burr. PG. 103m. BROADWAY.
FIST FIGHT. This comedy about a bullied teacher leaves its great cast (Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell) stranded by flat characters and a script that isn't smart enough. R. 91m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE GREAT WALL. A Western mercenary (Matt Damon in an unfortunate ponytail) aids Chinese mercenaries in their battle against hordes of lizards and the burden of carrying their own movie. With Tian Jing and Willem Dafoe. PG. 104m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2. Picking up a week after the events of John Wick, the sequel raises the bar for action and inventive ways for Wick (Keanu Reeves) to be the baddest. R. 122m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
LA LA LAND. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make real movie magic in this lush, candy-colored and sublimely giddy musical about an aspiring actress and jazz-loving pianist in Los Angeles. PG13. 128m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE. The plastic Dark Knight (voiced by a gravelly Will Arnett) takes on a partner in this brick-filled animated feature. With Micheal Cera. PG. 104m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
LION. Dev Patel stars in the genuine, moving and beautiful true tale of a young adopted man searching for his roots and his family in India. PG13. 118m. MILL CREEK.
MOONLIGHT. Attention to the little things and small, powerful moments make for a much wider and more hopeful picture of the world in this three-part coming-of-age-and-beyond story. Starring Mahershala Ali. PG13. 111m. BROADWAY, MINOR.
NERUDA. Chilean director Pablo Larraín's dreamlike tale of Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco), on the run from the government and pursued by existentially shaky policeman Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal). R. 107m. MINIPLEX.
PATERSON. Jim Jarmusch's film about a routine-bound bus driver (Adam Driver) and his mercurial wife (Golshifteh Farahani). PG. 120m. MINOR.
THE RED TURTLE. This Studio Ghibli animated feature about a lone shipwrecked man features the sounds of his island surroundings but no dialogue. PG. 80m. MINOR.
ROCK DOG. Luke Wilson and Eddie Izzard voice an aspiring mutt musician and his feline mentor in this animated comedy. PG. 120m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
SALESMAN. Married Iranian actors (Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini) rehearsing for Death of a Salesman struggle with the aftermath of the wife's brutal assault. PG13. 125m. MINOR.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill