With films such as Get Out, socially-conscious comedy-horror has started to take a step into the spotlight. The newest entry into the genre is Sebastián Silva’s movie Tyrel, which debuted at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
The film follows Tyler, who is the sole black man attending an otherwise all-white guys’ weekend at a remote cabin in upstate New York. Although he is welcomed with open arms, he can’t help but feel uncomfortable with the increasing tension.
Although the premise is undeniably strong, the movie just doesn’t seem to consistently deliver. It is almost as if it can’t fully decide what genre it wants to be. There are many comedic moments, some suspenseful moments, and a few dramatic moments, but the film switches between the three so often that it is jarring. One tone would start to dominate and make the story feel more immersive, only for it to shift and draw you back out.
That being said, the film has some very ambitious goals in relation to its themes and messaging. The story has a lot to say about toxic masculinity and racism, commentating on these themes in a way that is direct, but not aggressively obvious. Additionally, these themes are often handled in a satirical way, making the movie more enjoyable to watch. Even the title is tied to the satire.
The character development in the movie was also quite strong. The protagonist is extremely sympathetic, perhaps even empathetic. True, it is impossible for most to sympathize with Tyler’s racial struggles; however, almost everyone can relate to being the outsider in the group. As a result, the racial commentary becomes more accessible to a wider audience.
Some of the secondary characters are interestingly-developed, too. Perhaps the most interesting is Pete, played by Caleb Landry Jones, who (likely not-so-coincidentally) also starred in Get Out. This character causes most of the tension and conflict in the film. He is the “loose cannon” character, and therefore draws most of the audience’s attention.
The execution of the movie is fine, but very play-like. It isn’t particularly flashy in terms of cinematography or other technical elements. However, the filmmakers did an excellent job of creating tension out of a confined setting. Apparently, the actual home of one of the actors was used, contributing to a very real feeling of isolation. The score also lends itself to the film’s tension and suspense.
Additionally, the movie’s ensemble was great. Jason Mitchell is impressive as the protagonist. He definitely gives the film a much more human quality through his wide range and believability. Caleb Landry Jones is also a standout. Even though his role is similar to ones he has done before, he is obviously good at filling that archetype. Hopefully he won’t end up being typecast. Michael Cera has a small, but enjoyable supporting role too.
Overall, Tyrel is a solid movie. It has a premise with plenty of potential and interesting commentary, and while it didn’t always deliver, it was nonetheless an enjoyable and compelling watch.
Tyrel opens in select theaters December 5 and is on VOD beginning December 7.