We’ve had a run of good movies over the last couple of weeks here in Morris. Well,
“good” in the sense of thought-provoking and well made, but actually they were both reduced to simple, small-scale ideas executed terrifyingly.
Get Out has been getting all these rave reviews, and they’re deserved — it’s a horror movie that races along, and actually is horrifying. However, if you’re expecting an innovative story, you’re going to be disappointed: this is the old degenerate-family-in-remote-location-murdering-people story. You’ve already seen it in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, even crappy cheap ripoffs like that House of Wax movie with Paris Hilton. The only twist here is that the evil family is white — wait, no, they’re always white. The twist here is that they’re not inbred redneck hillbillies, they’re nice, normal-on-the-outside prosperous upper-class white professional people who live in a lovely, tasteful mansion in the country. Also, there is no Final Girl, but instead, a Final Black Man. Otherwise, it’s a perfect fit to the standard template for this kind of movie.
It does its job, though. There is a gradual build up of tension, the progressive reveal of just how awful the situation is to the protagonist, the bloody climax. It’s completely predictable. What takes it a step above, though, is that it also maps to American race relations — you begin to see well-off white families as parasites desiring black bodies. That adds a layer of discomfort to the whole.
There are flaws in the premise, though. Spoiler altert! Stop reading now if you don’t want a major plot point exposed!
The idea is that this family has achieved a kind of immortality by luring in black people, and then surgically transplanting a chunk of their brain into the skulls of their black victim, animating their strong new bodies with the will of the degenerate old white parasite. They literally auction off their victims to family members. There is no way any of this could work from a scientific perspective, but I’m not going to quibble with the science…it’s with the logic.
This is a family of horrible smiling racists who treat black people as property, so why are they trying to insert their minds into black bodies at all, to become black people? There’s a metaphor there, too, but it breaks down when you learn that Grandma and Grandpa White Monster are there, living on in possessed black bodies, but they’re now doing menial labor, chopping wood and cooking and cleaning. Why? I suspect it’s a bit of a cheat, because if the results had a logical progression, all of the family members would be black on the outside but wickedly white on the inside, but then the movie would be visually confusing — it would be a superficially black family luring other black people to a remote location for destruction.
John Wick: Chapter 2 has bigger flaws, but it has an advantage: it doesn’t have a story that needs to make sense. There is no plot, other than that John Wick kills everyone — it’s more of an exercise in world building for paranoids.
I also caught on to a framework that makes the whole thing hang together. John Wick is dead and is in Hell. There are Lords of Hell running the whole show, and everyone is in on the paradigm: chase John Wick, hurt him, make him bleed, but oh no, you can’t kill him, because that would end his torment. Everyone shooting at him is a lesser demon, which explains why they bother pursuing him at all, because normal mortals would simply turn and run at the prospect of facing this guy with a near infinite supply of guns and knives who will shoot you in the head. It explains why anyone would ever leave the Hotel Cosmopolitan, the only sanctuary in the world. They have torture missions to run.
Wick is oblivious. He doesn’t stop to wonder when he gets in a brutal knife fight in a subway train, and the other passengers just quietly go about their business at the far end of the car. A Demon Lord just has to put in a call to a central switchboard, and cell phones start ringing all around him as everyone gets their assignment. At the end, the King Demon meets Wick in public, and with a gesture, everyone in the plaza stops to stare at him — they’re all under his control.
The whole movie is a paranoid ballet in which John Wick has to kill his enemies who have endless hordes of disposable gunmen, and in the end, he discovers how vast and numerous his enemies are, as he runs away. The End. Chapter 3 is presumably in the works, in which the entire universe pursues John Wick, so he kills everyone in the world.
It’ll be easy to write, at least. It’s going to take a lot of stunt men and prop guys, though, and more epically decadent sets.