‘Tyrel’ Film Review: Jason Mitchell Elevates So-So Social Satire

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The premise of writer-director Sebastián Silva’s “Tyrel” is simple enough: a guy joins his friend on a trip to the Catskills for a weekend birthday party (which also happens to be Trump’s inauguration weekend) with several people he doesn’t know, and he quickly discovers he is the only black man there.

With that in mind, the movie you expect is one that might offer some smart social commentary, a statement on fake woke-ness, or perhaps a thriller similar to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” Instead, what “Tyrel” offers is one stellar performance by Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Mudbound”) alongside a whole bunch of loose ends, half-thought-out commentary, and no answers for the questions the film proposes. The results may leave you confused and quite cold.

Tyler (Mitchell) decides to escape from the crowded home he shares with his girlfriend and her sick mother by heading out of town with Johnny (Christopher Abbott, “The Sinner”), his buddy from work. Their holiday plan? Boozin’ and male bonding with a bunch of guys Tyler has never met. Johnny’s Argentine friend Nico (Nicolas Arze) has invited them and a bunch of other dudes to his cabin in the Catskills, in the dead of winter, for a birthday celebration for Pete (Caleb Landry Jones, “Get Out”).

Also Read: ‘Tyrel’: Race, Class and Bad Manners Collide in Showcase for Jason Mitchell

As Tyler meets the other guys, he comes to the realization that he’s about to spend an entire weekend with an all-white group of men. That flash of realization is one of the finer moments from Mitchell, who wears his discomfort in his eyes; it’s a look so visibly clear to those who know what it feels like to be the outsider, and more so, a feeling people of color know all too well upon realizing they’re the only person of color in a situation.

But Tyler tries to be one of the guys, ignoring some off-color remarks until the men play a game where they are given an iconic movie line and have to say it in a specific “accent” they draw at random. Of course, someone is given “black.” Of course, an argument erupts (though not at Tyler’s insistence) over whether or not it’s racist to assume there’s such a thing as a “black accent.” And then Tyler performs a version of that accent for the group.

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It’s apparent that Silva (“Nasty Baby”) wants the audience to feel on-edge, wondering what will happen if Tyler finally gets to express himself, and the remote scenery definitely adds to that anxiety while also evoking hints of loneliness and desperation. But rather than go all-in on exploring heavy issues regarding race, appropriation, depression, and anxiety, or on focusing on the possible evolution of his characters — and boy, can these characters use some evolving — Silva chooses instead to teeter on the edge of a point before letting the thought dissolve into nothing, as if he is afraid to fully dive in and explore the narrative possibilities.

Silva relies too heavily on surface symbolism and dialogue: Tyler takes out “Lord of the Flies” to read, and later spoiled rich kid Alan (Michael Cera) tells Tyler, “Never trust the white man; he’ll let you die in the wilderness.” Much like the British schoolboys of “Lord of the Flies,” these men bask in their white privilege, and the more they drink, the less beholden to society’s rules they become. A smarter script would have used that premise to dig into the issues the dialogue opens up, and it would certainly explore the idea of why Tyler utilizes a technique many people of color learn in life — to blend in and cater to whiteness, choosing to just suck up his discomfort, and laughing when it’s clear he wants to run.

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That would have been a much worthier story to tell, but instead Silva relies on the debauchery of the dude-bros. He even has Tyrel call Alan his “n***a,” and at one point, puts Alan in a do-rag but makes no statement about it while, in another scene, Silva takes careful measures to highlight Tyler’s night-time hair-care routine. The story is a bit confused on just how far it’s willing to explore American racial complexities.

The shaky, handheld camera shots from cinematographer Alexis Zabe (“The Florida Project”) create a feeling of chaos and a tension that adds to Mitchell’s performance. Every worry, every panic, every annoyance is articulated brilliantly by Mitchell and underscored by Zabe. The camerawork in the alcohol-fueled climax made me a bit queasy, but I couldn’t determine if it was a good or bad thing because it definitely felt like I was at the party with everyone, and just as drunk.

What “Tyrel” lacks in substance, Jason Mitchell more than makes up for in his performance. He is thoughtful, precise, vulnerable and authentic, and even in as flawed a film as “Tyrel,” he is an absolute joy to watch.

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Jason Mitchell’s ‘Tyrel’ Sells to Magnolia Pictures

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Magnolia Pictures has picked up the worldwide rights to Jason Mitchell’s “Tyrel,” the company announced Tuesday.

The film stars Michael Cera, Chris Abbott, Ann Dowd and Caleb Landry Jones. A drama about race relations, it premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in January. Magnolia Pictures is aiming for a 2018 theatrical release.

Sebastián Silva wrote and directed the film about Tyler, the sole black man who goes on a weekend getaway trip with his drunk friends.

Also Read: ‘Tyrel’: Race, Class and Bad Manners Collide in Showcase for Jason Mitchell

“Sebastián Silva continues to upset the apple cart in the most interesting ways with this scaldingly fresh take on being the other,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles in a statement.

Silva added, “I’m thrilled and honored that ‘Tyrel’ has found its home with Magnolia. We’re excited to have such a collaborative and creative distribution partner on board so that this film gets seen by as many people as possible.  We believe the movie is timely and are hopeful that it will help continue to move the race conversation forward.”

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“Tyrel” was produced by Max Born, Jacob Wasserman, and Silva. The deal was negotiated by Magnolia co-EVP Dori Begley and SVP of acquisitions John Von Thaden with UTA Independent Film Group on behalf of the filmmakers. Magnolia Head of International Sales Lorna Lee Sagebiel-Torres and Manager of International Sales Catalina Ramirez will be representing the film at Cannes.  International rights are still available.

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‘Tyrel’: Race, Class and Bad Manners Collide in Showcase for Jason Mitchell

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

It’s safe to bet that everyone, at least once, has felt trapped at a sleepover they can’t leave. It brings the ugly choice: win over the room, disappear into sleep or call crying for mom.

That’s the dilemma for the embattled lead in “Tyrel,” a sweet guy named Tyler who finds himself the only black man at a weekend birthday celebration soaked in booze and fragile masculine egos.

“Straight Outta Compton” star Jason Mitchell plays Tyler, who in the first moments of the film is called “Tyrel” by one of his new pals. Inverting the letters of his name registers as both a fleeting mistake and a nuclear microaggression. It’s a moment that sets the stage for a tense and emotional ride, written and directed by Sundance alum Sebastian Silva.

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There was an urgency to see the film at it’s Saturday premiere, held at the Park City library. Not just because Silva’s previous five films have shown here (this is his first in U.S. Dramatic Competition), but thanks to it’s on-paper similarities to “Get Out” — which is currently hurling toward a Best Picture nomination.

This film is about a black man isolated in the wilderness, his very presence a confrontation to the norm that surrounds him. So is “Get Out,” at first. This film also stars the gangly, charming and terrifying Caleb Landry Jones.

Here Landry Jones plays the birthday boy, someone who challenges his a new guest to physical fights and mind games. In “Get Out,” Landry Jones plays a prodigal son who challenges his new guest Daniel Kaluuya to physical fights and mind games.

The similarities end there, unless you’re like us and consider a bad host and bad friends truly terrifying.

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Tyler has been invited to this celebration by Johnny (Christopher Abbott), an excuse for a break from the medical problems his girlfriend’s mother is suffering. It’s weighing on his relationship, and Tyler is trying to vent to Johnny as they make their way to the country abode of house-flipper Nico.

“The Argentinian fellow,” remarks passing neighbor Ann Dowd of Nico, a signal that there are other “others” on this trip though none ever winds up subjected to what Tyler will endure. There’s also the openly gay Roddy, whose connection to the men is unclear.

Johnny and his core group are yearslong friends, cut from the same cloth of discontented men of privilege who love hypothetical babble and observational humor. Tyler is not a talker, does not need to perform his intellect and is generally uninterested in stoking the insecurities of his peers for sport.

Because you get the sense that Tyler knows what a good friend is.

Strapped with rising anxiety over how much he does not fit in, Tyler first tries to become of service: bussing dishes, helping cook meals, walking the adorable house dog Cosmo. But Johnny senses his unease, and instead of trying to understand becomes agitated. This new addition is not blending, and it’s making Johnny uncomfortable.

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After sneaking off to bed early (and resisting putting on his do-rag, which was painful to watch), Tyler wakes the next day with a mission to lean the f— in. He drinks, he battles, he relentlessly teases the other men, mimicking their rituals to become one of them.

It works for a while, but he overshoots his drinking and weed smoking. He becomes seductively similar to the men, and then a total buzzkill with his slurring and horseplay and inability to hang. There’s no winning.

The audience at the library had notably different takes watching the film: some were amused at the comedy of errors and outlandish bro stunts by Johnny & Co. Others were wracked with anxiety over scenarios that could have sent the film in a bleak direction, like a drunken blindfold game where the group stabs a Donald Trump piñata with a kitchen knife.

The varied reactions could present a challenge in how a distributor might market “Tyrel,” but the obvious takeaway is Mitchell’s rich performance. He lets you feel every humiliation and subsequent redemption while he’s trapped in this dynamic.

He disappears into sleep. He wins over the room. He even calls mommy crying (a drunken trip to Dowd’s house, though he’s inevitably pulled back to his host).

He makes it rewarding.

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Park City, Utah, is about to be flush with cash — and we’re not talking about buying apres-ski gear. Here are the most promising sales titles of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

“Tyrel”

After his stunning performance in “Mudbound,” Jason Mitchell is back in this drama alongside Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Cera and Ann Dowd — the latter or whom has had a great year as well. Buyers should go crazy for the film about a guy who goes on a weekend birthday trip to a cabin — but he’s the only black guy on the retreat.

“Lizzie”

There’s much intrigue for the film “Lizzie,” which chronicles the life of Lizzie Borden, who was tried and acquitted for the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother. Chloe Sevigny, Kristen Stewart and Denis O’Hare star.

“Burden”

Garrett Hedlund also gave a stellar performance in “Mudbound,” playing the son of a man associated with the Ku Klux Klan. In “Burden,” Hedlund is a repo man rising through the ranks of the KKK, but everything changes when he falls for a woman, portrayed by Andrea Riseborough. The additional cast of Forest Whitaker and Usher should entice buyers.

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”

Chloe Grace Moretz stars as a high school teenager who gets caught in the backseat of her car with another girl. She’s quickly shipped off for conversion therapy, where she for the first time finds her place among fellow outcasts. The strong themes of pain and loss while finding yourself and your identity should make it a hot title — after all, it’s based on Emily Danforth’s acclaimed novel.

“Juliet, Naked”

Perhaps one of the most anticipated films on the Sundance schedule, “Juliet, Naked” is an adaptation of Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel. Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd star in this comedic drama about a woman who is in a transatlantic romance with a once-revered musician.

Watch the Heartbreaking First Trailer for Sean Baker’s ‘Florida Project’ (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

A24 has released the first trailer for Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” in which Willem Dafoe stars as a property manager of a motel in which a six-year-old lives with her rebellious mother.

In the trailer, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) shows her friends the pink-coated motel she is currently staying in. The kids also make up excuses to get money from people for ice cream and cuddle up in their bed while Moonee’s mother (Bria Vinaite) struggles with providing for her daughter.

A24 acquired the project in May. The film about a family living in budget motels is the follow-up to Baker’s “Tangerine,” which was shot entirely on iPhone and netted two Gotham Awards. It starred Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Karren Karagulian, and was released in 2015.

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“The Florida Project,” starring Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones and newcomers Prince and Vinaite, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar.

Baker co-wrote the script along with Chris Bergoch.

At Cannes, the firm received strong reviews, enticing interest from multiple buyers including Amazon Studios, Neon and Annapurna. “The Florida Project” was one of the hottest sale titles heading into the festival.

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“The Florida Project” will open in select theaters on October 6.

Watch the trailer above.

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Sean Baker’s ‘Florida Project’ Acquired by A24

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A24 has acquired North American distribution rights to Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” an individual with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap.

The film about a homeless family is the follow-up to Baker’s “Tangerine,” which was shot entirely on iPhone and netted two Gotham Awards. It starred Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Karren Karagulian, and was released in 2015.

“The Florida Project,” starring Willem Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones and newcomers Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar.

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Baker co-wrote the script along with Chris Bergoch.

At Cannes, the firm received strong reviews, enticing interest from multiple buyers including Amazon Studios, Neon and Annapurna. “The Florida Project” was one of the hottest sale titles heading into the festival.

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A24 recently won a Best Picture Academy Award for “Moonlight” and also released award frontrunners “20th Century Women, “Ex Machina” and “Room.”

ICM represented the deal with WME and CAA.

Variety first reported the news.

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‘Get Out’ Filmmaker Jordan Peele Named CinemaCon Director of the Year

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Jordan Peele is CinemaCon’s Director of the Year.

The annual gathering of American movie exhibitors will honor the multi-hyphenate star for his breakthrough, still-buzzing racial thriller “Get Out.”

Approaching $140 million at the domestic box office, Peele’s film about a terrifying country weekend has been anointed by critics and moviegoers alike.

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Jordan Peele has instantaneously become a force to reckon with as a gifted and enormously talented director and filmmaker,” said CinemaCon Managing Director Mitch Neuhauser. “He has audiences and critics around the globe enamored and spellbound, dare I say hypnotized, with his wildly inventive directorial debut, and we are ecstatic to be honoring him as this year’s ‘Director of the Year.’”

The spec script from the former Comedy Central star was produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse and distributed by Universal Pictures.

It stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener.

Sean McKittrick, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Peele are also producers on the project. The film also stars Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Milton “Lil Rel” Howery, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson and Lakeith Stanfield.

CinemaCon will run from March 27-30 and will feature presentations from top studios, mini-majors STX and Amazon Studios.

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Reflections on ‘Get Out’: The Shock of Racial Truth Served Up Till It Hurts

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I am probably the last person in the country to see “Get Out,” except for the 50 or so other people in the theater with me last night.

My lame excuse: I’m scared of horror movies.

But there are so many notable things about this film that I’m compelled to point them out, even though I’m late. The movie sticks with me, and is going to stick in the culture, too.

Consider this: A thriller that makes us think about race because it places the viewer at the center of a racial conspiracy. That’s new.

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“Get Out” grabs us with the shock of truth, cloaked in the thriller genre. The audience recognizes the danger for our hero, Chris, before he feels it himself, and roots for him to, well, get woke.

Early in his weekend visit to the wealthy parents of his white girlfriend, we know there’s something terribly wrong about the black folks that work for them. Chris’ (Daniel Kaluuya) wide eyes are wary from experience, but we want to warn him — “It’s way worse than you think!”

The Dad (Bradley Whitford) can be pegged as a racist right off, and the menacing son Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) might have stepped out of the plantation dinner scene of Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” But girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) and the open-minded Mom (Catherine Keener) reveal themselves more slowly.

The movie grabs us with the shock of the new. I can’t recall a movie told from the point of view of a young African-American man as he navigates a white-dominated world. That’s really different.

In doing so, writer-director Jordan Peele makes us feel what he — as an African-America man — has felt. All while entertaining us with the sinister beats of a classic thriller.

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That’s what Peele is saying, I think: This is what it feels like to be me. In the age of Black Lives Matter, in the age of Trayvon Martin, in the wake of a two-term black president, Peele has created a vehicle that allows us to empathize fully with that experience — the constant measuring of oneself against expectations of others, the dull daily impact of small insults, little indignities, the wearing down of a person’s internal barometer of self-worth.

So much so that when our hero gets to turn the tables, the audience is fully on board with a black man (SPOILER ALERT) wreaking his revenge on an upper class white family using bats, balls and a well-placed set of antler horns.

I heard Peele call the movie a “social thriller,” and I understand that take. I heard him say that the idea has been percolating for years, and that it’s a direct result of the election of Obama. OK.

It hurts because the truth hurts. The film is an indictment of where we hoped we were in a supposedly post-racial society. It’s a statement on behalf of Trayvon Martin, whose hoodie gets a nod. It’s that opening scene when a twenty-something black man is walking down the street and he feels a car following him. “Oh, hell no,” he blurts out to himself, turning on his heel to walk quickly away from the confrontation. (Or so he thought.)

“Get Out” gives the lie to the belief that we are past vanquishing racial awareness, much less prejudice. Peele tells us that he’s not past it, and the millions of Americans who have gone to see the film validate his view.

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For that matter, neither is Ava Duvernay, who tells us her truth with “13th,” her documentary about mass incarceration of black men. Barry Jenkins tells us his truth with “Moonlight,” the story that dared us to sympathize with a young man growing up in the crack-infested ‘hood.

To be fair, we are nowhere on this path. We did elect Barack Obama, twice. As a country we did love him, and we loved his wife Michelle.

But it seems we are destined to struggle with our desire to become a society of equals. And the message of “Get Out” tells us how far we still have to go.

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The spirit of Ira Levin is alive and well in “Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s impressive feature debut as a writer-director. Levin was best known for novels like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives,” chilling little tales in which a seemingly posh and prosperous community was hiding something truly terrifying.

That’s the vibe that Peele nails so successfully. On the sketch show “Key & Peele,” he and comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key were masters at finding the humor in the uncomfortable gulf between male and female, black and white, gay and straight, nerdy and cool; here, there’s a similar mining of everyday absurdities and injustice, only it’s in the service of a tightly-wound horror film.

In the same way that “The Stepford Wives” exploited liberated feminists’ fear of male chauvinists’ fear of liberated feminists, “Get Out” finds its tension in black people’s fear of white people’s fear of black people.

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Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, “Sicario”) is a black photographer who’s a little nervous about meeting the parents of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams, “Girls”), despite the fact that she’s enlightened enough to chew out a cop who asks for Chris’s ID after Rose hits a deer on their drive to her lakefront home. (After “The Invitation” and “A Cure for Wellness,” this makes the third thriller in the last year where a car hits a deer in the first ten minutes; it’s now officially a trend.)

Rose’s doctor parents Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford), and her med-student brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones, “X-Men: First Class”) are cordial enough, although they eventually unleash a torrent of microagressions: Dean can’t stop calling Chris “my man,” and Jeremy suggests that with some gym training, Chris’s “genetic makeup” would make him a “beast” in MMA.

Those familial faux pas aren’t the only thing making Chris uncomfortable: what’s up with the glacial stares from the family’s black staff members Georgina (Betty Gabriel, “Good Girls Revolt”) and Walter (Marcus Henderson, “Pete’s Dragon”)? Why the strange behavior from the elderly white guests at the house party? And who’s the guy (Lakeith Stanfield, “Short Term 12”) who looks so familiar to Chris, but is dressing and behaving so strangely?

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Generally, when a thriller is built on a “Something Strange Is Happening Here” plot, once the Something Strange is revealed, it’s time to wrap things up. It’s a testament to Peele’s storytelling skills that even after we know exactly what’s going on, we’re still engaged by the characters and by what else is going to happen. Editor Gregory Plotkin, best known for his work on the “Paranormal Activity” films, does standout work here, in both the micro — setting up specific jump-scare moments — and the macro — pacing the story, never letting the momentum drag, maintaining the tension even as we cut away from Chris to his best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery, “The Carmichael Show”), who’s suspicious about this entire trip.

Peele never sledgehammers his ideas about race, but blackness and whiteness both drive the plot and provide a constant source of tension over the course of the film. It’s potent satire that’s very much about America in 2017; call it post-“post-racial.” And any thin-skinned white viewers who complain about how Caucasians are treated in the movie are invited to go read some Donald Bogle, write a book report, and get over it.

Two scenes involving the police put a somewhat fine point upon it, but Chris never really gets to relax; he’s in an affluent white world, and while no one’s ever outright hostile, he constantly feels on display and subject to judgment. (Even in a purportedly liberal household: Rose accurately predicts that Dean will mention how he wishes he could have voted for Obama a third time.) Peele delicately weaves in notions of white supremacy, eugenics and racial symbolism in ways that don’t call attention to themselves, but they’re there for those with eyes to see.

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Kaluuya makes a great everyman, expressing panic in small and subtle ways, but a movie like this always belongs to the people with shadowy motivations, so it’s Whitford and especially Keener, both playing with their screen image, who make the biggest impact. (Thanks to Keener and the film’s sound team, you’ll never hear a spoon scraping the side of a teacup the same way again.)

It’s a little on the nose to cast Landry Jones in a sinister role; he’s capable of being straightforward and charming in a film like John Boorman’s “Queen & Country,” but he’s also currently the go-to for directors who want a character with shifty eyes and a sweaty brow. Wiliams keeps the audience guessing, but the ultimate secret weapon of “Get Out” is the hilarious Howery, who walks off with every scene that’s not nailed down.

Once the Something Terrible is revealed, Peele and Plotkin and cinematographer Toby Oliver (“Wolf Creek 2”) don’t make the usual horror moves; they slow down instead of speeding up, using longer takes and brightly-lit rooms to make the grim reality even more frightening. The satirical tension gives way to an unbearable calm, and while there’s still humor, the last act remains breathlessly exciting and tense.

Jordan Peele has made an extraordinary leap in genre here, and he’s also crafted a horror film that has more blistering observations about race than half a dozen well-intentioned Oscar-bait dramas. “Get Out” is one of the very few films that’s ever going to be compared with both “You’re Next” and “13th,” and it heralds the arrival of a very promising new filmmaker.

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