Living in the Sunken Place: An Analysis of “Get Out”

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If you look back on the history of horror cinema, you’ll find that many make use of timely social issues in order to convey powerful commentary on their respective subjects. The late, great visionary horror director George Romero continually did it in his legendary Dead series, with Night of the Living Dead tackling race relations during the height of the Civil Rights movement, while Dawn of the Dead took shots at consumerism and its power to basically turn society into zombies. Recently, The Purge series of films delves into classism, the classic Rosemary’s Baby is related to feminist ideas, and the cult-favorite They Live looked at the power of the media.

Get Out, which comes courtesy of comedian-turned-horror director Jordan Peele, is the latest and greatest example of how horror films are often utilized to depict poignant social commentary. While we’re a year removed from the initial release of Peele’s debut horror subject, Get Out, it’s a film I still can’t seem to shake from my head. It’s never apparent as you watch it, but Get Out is Peele’s first time being in the director’s chair for a film, as well as his first foray into the horror genre. Get Out is so successful in so many aspects that it ends up not only being one of the most impressive debuts of the last decade (so much so that Peele actually was awarded an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), but also perhaps the most socially charged mainstream horror film in that timespan as well.

Get Out’s central character is Chris (played by the excellent Daniel Kaluuya), a 20-something black man in an interracial relationship with his white girlfriend, Rose (played by Allison Williams), who plans to take him along for a visit at her family’s classical Northeastern estate for a family get-together. You’ll see that Chris is noticeably skeptical about the trip, and coyly asks Rose if her parents are aware that he’s black, implying that he believes he may not feel welcomed by Rose’s family because of the color of his skin. Rose’s on-the-nose rebuttal attempts to strike down his fear: “My dad would vote for Obama for a third term if he could,” she replies, with the punchline of the joke landing a handful of scenes later when Rose’s father recites this line verbatim to Chris.

And it’s moments like this one, I believe, that make up one of the best attributes of Get Out: it remains a biting satire plainly hidden beneath a rotten exterior. Peele has certainly looked at similar issues concerning race relations in the past through his various comedic avenues, such as in his former Comedy Central show Key & Peele, but here he takes a much more subdued approach to his comedy. While the film is foremost a psychological horror-thriller, and displays its fair share of horrifying scenes dealing with serious themes, Peele regularly intersects the built-up tension with well-timed jokes and often funny reactions from the characters. However, Get Out can and should scare you, especially in its final act when all of its cards have been laid out in front of you, and definitely after its credits have rolled and you’re allowed to reflect on its potent themes. But to Peele’s credit, you may find yourself crying from laughter just as much as you’ll be sweating in terror.

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Fear Needs No Translation: Is Blood Thicker Than Water? – An Analysis of “A Bay of Blood”

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In our dynamic culture, the thought of looking back from where we came from is often overlooked. It’s humbling to take a second and remember that if it weren’t for the innovators that came before us, then we wouldn’t be in the position where we are right now. The philosophers that spoke up against the norm, the scientists that questioned the accepted reasoning, and the political leaders that stood for change are all cornerstones to the world we live in today. Not only does it humble us, but it teaches us why what we experience today is the way it is. Likewise, in horror films, we can look back at the greats and learn from them — these masters of fear that still influence the industry, and probably will continue to influence it decades from now. Today, we pay our respects to the great Mario Bava, with an analysis of his 1971 film, A Bay of Blood, in this installment of “Fear Needs No Translation.”

Being credited with establishing the Italian giallo genre, it’s no wonder why Bava’s legacy has lived on through the works of those both native to and outside the Italian countryside. This specific subgenre of horror is a hybrid of many, drawing its defining characteristics from mysteries, psychological thrillers, as well as slashers, making it stand out from its other horror conglomerates. Bava started off as a painter by trade, but had a great influence by his father, Eugenio Bava, one of the first Italian film directors. Eventually following in his father’s footsteps, Mario brought along his own artistic prowess, creating films with brilliant coloring and lighting. With many underappreciated works, such as The Whip and the Body (1963) as well as Blood and Black Lace (1964), Bava has branded the giallo subgenre for eternity, perhaps most notably with A Bay of Blood. Continue reading

Reinventing an Abandoned Genre: An Analysis of “Scream”

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I cannot think of another name in American horror that has the stature of the late, great Wes Craven. Craven, who sadly passed in 2015, is a name that many of you are likely aware of, perhaps subconsciously, even if you don’t necessarily recognize it in passing. To refresh the memories of those who are scratching their heads at my previous statement, Craven was responsible for some of the greatest and most well-known horror films and franchises ever made, including 80s mega-hit A Nightmare on Elm Street (that’s Freddy, for the less informed), his 70s midnight movie darlings The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, as well as some more obscure hits you may recognize like the Rachel McAdams-led and highly underrated Red Eye and, well, whatever the hell The People Under the Stairs is (has anyone seen that movie, by the way? It’s weird).

But I digress.

What I’ve written about here is what may be Craven’s ultimate masterpiece in my eyes, the 1996 phenomenon that is Scream. Scream is a film that single-handedly rewrote the canon of the slasher film. Scream satirized the many clichés that had made the subgenre as popular as it was in the 80s, while also bringing it forward into uncharted, postmodern territory, ultimately becoming the most successful slasher flick ever at the box office and paving the way for a resurgence in the genre in the following decade. This is where we would see eventually the releases of imitators such as Final Destination, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and yes, even Scary Movie.

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: A “Photographic” Memory – An Analysis of “La Jetée” and the “Left Bank”

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Welcome back Christian’s Cinematic Syntax! Hopefully these entries are leaving those lasting impressions that Chris Marker refers to in the film I’m looking at today, La Jetée!

After taking a brief hiatus…I am back! Back to remind the reader of the power and beauty of cinematic expression. With that said, I am moving forward into the crevasse of cinema to allow for the spirit and essence of the art form to be understood and appreciated. I want the reader to understand cinema’s ability to channel and freeze a perspective into something that connects the viewer to an almost metaphysical level.

In the spirit, I am excited to dissect La Jetée, the 28-minute master-work by Chris Marker, a talent that stretches the title of the conventional filmmaker. Marker has an incredible versatility through the art form, being a documentarian, a photographer, and a multimedia artist. The titles that Marker totes are of importance to not only the context of La Jetée, but also of the film movement he is typically categorized in, known as the “Left Bank.” So, before analyzing a film such as La Jetée, I believe it is necessary to introduce some of my readers to this specific movement in cinema.

What is the “Left Bank?”

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: Faith and “Ordet”

Editor’s Note: Below is an essay written by Film Blogger Christian Mietus, covering the themes of faith within Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1955 film, Ordet. Mietus originally wrote the piece for his Intro to Film Studies class with Jet Fuel Review‘s very own Dr. Simone Muench. Spoilers follow.

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Ordet (or “The Word” in English) is a Danish film that was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1955. Dreyer is known for directing some of the world’s most praised arthouse films, such as The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Vampyr (1932), and Day of Wrath (1943).  Although he receives this praise today, his films were never financial successes until Ordet’s release, which could be attributed to a variety of reasons, specifically the film being an incredibly meticulous mastery of the craft by Dreyer and cinematographer Henning Bendtsen.

Dreyer’s body of work has many themes that are represented in many fashions. For example, in a Senses of Cinema article written by Thomas Beltzer, he writes, “In Dreyer’s films … It is always a faith well placed because the spiritual realm is as present and real as the material realm, and both are completely interwoven.” In Ordet, the themes of faith and the fantastical realm are interwoven into the mortal realm through the tragic death of Inger Borgen (Birgitte Federspiel), as well as through the actions of characters including Morten Borgen (Henrik Malberg), Johannes (Preben Lerdorff Rye), and Mikkel Borgen (Emil Hass Christensen) — all emphasized through dialogue, mise en scène, and precise cinematography.

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Student Feature: The Cycle of Violence in “City of God”

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Below is a notable perspective on the 2002 film City of God, written by Lewis University student Sarah Simar. Spoilers ahead.

Guns, gangs, crime, drugs, power, wealth, survival — these are the most obvious themes in City of God (Cidade de Deus, 2002), directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. There is no way out, no safe place to hide in the City of God. If you are not in a gang, you are forced into one at a very young age.

One of the main characters and narrator of the story, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), dreams of being a photographer and getting out of this violent world. The other main character, Ze Pequeno (Leandro Firmino), wants to rule the city from a young age with his partner Benny (Phellipe Haagensen), and accomplishes just that through a series of malicious acts. Rocket and Ze are so radically different, but their paths cross more than once throughout the movie. These moments reiterate the theme that there is no way out, even for Rocket, who wants nothing to do with any gang.

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When There’s No More Room In Hell: An Analysis of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”

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Is it necessarily wrong to assume that most people’s favorite film is one that they saw at an early age? A film that, as a child, you watched over and over again with unparalleled adoration. Since I was about ten years old, when I watched Back to the Future with my cousin for the first time, that film became my go-to response to the question of what my favorite film is.

Not a bad choice, right? That revered, timeless, wholesome classic, however, isn’t my favorite film of all time. Instead, that film actually happens to be George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

In a time when the video rental store was still a profitable business, I was always excited to rent a movie on a whim. When the internet was still in its relative infancy — and helpful film sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB even more so — 99% of your rationale for renting a film was based on how cool the cover was. At least, that’s how we did it in my family. This system wasn’t foolproof, of course, and sometimes you’d end up going home with a rather deplorable film like Ghost Ship. But other times, you’d happen upon great, little gems, and maybe even discover what would later become your favorite film of all time.

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