Spooky season is upon us. I have never been much of a Halloween guy. Free candy is always appreciated, but adult Dave has never really gone in for the costumes or the decorations or the scary movies. However – it seems like going into my top-rated scary movie made too much sense given the timing of this writing, so let’s talk about Get Out (2017, dir. Jordan Peele).
Before we get into this, let me clarify one thing. “Scary movie” is a hybrid definition that will lead to endless debate about what to include. I excluded some films that might qualify as light horror (A Clockwork Orange) or as suspense (Touch of Evil), both of which rank higher than Get Out. Had to draw the line somewhere, so I decided to arbitrarily draw it where I did. (And truly Silence of the Lambs is the answer to my top-rated scary movie, but I felt like writing about this one instead. I also completely ignored Hitchcock for some reason.)
Get Out is the story of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a black New York City photographer who is about to spend a weekend with his white new-ish girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) and her family in upstate New York. They are a very WASP-y family that works hard to let Chris know how progressive they are to help make him feel at home, but they have black servants. Rose’s father (Bradley Whitford) even acknowledges how bad that looks, noting they kept them on after his parents died because it seemed cruel to let them go. The weekend turns very strange pretty quickly – particularly when Rose’s mother (Catherine Keener) hypnotizes Chris in an effort to help him quit smoking. It turns out there was another reason for this hypnosis that, to talk about at all, would ruin the film.
As that set up implies, the horror elements (and there are some but this is not really a horror movie as you would normally define it) come from what the Armitage’s have planned for Chris. Jordan Peele – better known at the time as half of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele – understands horror and suspense and has crafted an incredibly smart film that is both a commentary on race relations and a satirical reset of the entire horror genre. It has a little bit of everything – some great Jordan Peele comedy, a few jump scares, a unique ride, and an unexpected and satisfying ending.
What makes this film great is the script. The performances are universally solid, but the story keeps you engaged the entire time as you try to figure out exactly what is going on and then why and then who all is involved and how deep does it all go. It is a very tricky narrative balance to strike and Peele commands it with the finesse of a long-time veteran of the genre, despite the fact that this is his directorial debut.
If you have not seen it – go into as cold as you possibly can. The journey is made more spectacular by the element of surprise. If you have seen it, give yourself the treat of re-watching it during this Halloween season and surprise yourself at how many things you may have missed the first time.
FUN FACT – Jordan Peele became the fourth person ever to be nominated for writing, directing, and producing a debut film, joining Orson Welles, Warren Beatty, and James L. Brooks.
Here are my top ten scary movies. Again, this may be subjective in several ways and, again, I completely ignore Hitchcock. I will even include the rule bending I did to write about Get Out. Overall ranking is in parentheses.
- The Silence of the Lambs (24)
- Get Out (127)
- Ghostbusters (175) – Probably shouldn’t count this, but here it is.
- Parasite (177) – Talk about surprising endings. This one deserves a rewatch.
- Murder by Death (182) – Again, more comedy than anything else. I include it just to make my sister laugh and say out loud as she reads it – “Good thinking on Diamond Head.”
- Pan’s Labyrinth (221) – I liked this one, but there are some who might have it in their top 20 overall. I never understood that kind of love for it.
- Murder on the Orient Express (229) – The original. Branagh’s remake is…much lower.
- Frankenstein (280) – Again, the original. 1931, baby!
- Clue (320) – Once again more of a comedy than anything else, but 8-year-old Dave was fairly scared of attics because of it.
- A Quiet Place (404)
Just Watch says that Get Out is currently streaming on Netflix and Peacock. It is available to rent or buy on most platforms, including Redbox, where it is the cheapest.