Get the Hell Out (Taiwan, 2020) [SDAFF 2020]

Wang I-Fan’s debut feature Get the Hell Out opens explosively and stylishly, like the entrance of a pro wrestling star in the arena. It promises chaos, blood and fun. The film delivers a sharp line of social commentary mixed with technical and artistic consistency almost comparable with 2019’s Parasite. Where Parasite succeeded as a social commentary through metaphor, Get the Hell Out surpasses it by utilizing mise-en-scene as a form of hyperbole.

The film introduces us to a scene familiar even to non-Taiwanese people: a chaotic parliamentary hall where legislative arguments often break into fist fights. Our narrator and protagonist, Parliamentary Member (MP) Hsiung Ying-ying (Megan Lai) interprets this as a theater: politicians throwing things around and brawling is often a spectacle for misdirection while corrupt politicians like MP Li Kuo-chung (Wang Chung-wang) gets their agenda forward behind the curtains. The spectacle is a total media frenzy.

Hsiung and Li are fighting over whether a foreign-owned chemical plant must continue to operate. Hsiung is on the opposition side for two reasons: the plant is constructed over the community where she grows up, and that the plant plagued their town with a virus that makes people act like idiots.

After getting fired for attacking a pestering media reporter with her special wrestling move, Hsiung found an unlikely companion with the young security guard, Wang (Bruce Hung). After trying to stop the incident that eventually got Hsiung fired, Wang became the focus of media valorization as the new hero and eventually a candidate for a Parliamentary seat. Hsiung teams up with Wang to vote for opposition. On the day when the Members meet to vote for the plant, the virus gets inside the Parliament as the infected President attends.

Of course, all the political bouts mentioned in the synopsis above are mere premises on the highlight of the film: the zombie apocalypse inside the parliament. What’s great about Get the Hell Out is how it maintains a balance between both its premises and its stylistic choice. Hsiung’s accusations became real in front of the Parliament as they also became victims of the chemical plant she’s heavily opposing. The violence is not mere theater anymore.

This incident that turns the emphasis of the narrative sets the film’s reformist attitude which is to focus on bigger problems rather than to insist on personal interests. As a social commentary, while working within the same limits of class and bureaucratic issues, this goes further than Parasite’s cynicism and vagueness. It explicitly stands for social reforms and clearly exposes its enemies: politicians who turn into idiots, including the President, and a corrupt parliamentary member.

There’s a clear use of the zombies as a metaphor for the mass that one needs to surpass to survive, an indexical tradition rooted in the 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. However, Get the Hell Out is hopeful that one correct person, an uncorrupted or the immune one, might just be able to save the world, despite their flaws. In one scene, Hsiung confronts Wang after he is elected to say that her faith in him lies in her assumption that he’d be different than other politicians. At some point, this may expose the limit of its reformist politics since it might endanger a downplaying of the larger issue to depend on a narrow solution of the individual greatness of the uncorrupted. But being the comic film that it is, Get the Hell Out retains a naivete in its faith that its heroes will find a way out of chaos.

All of these seemingly complicated matters are effectively compressed by Wang’s quirky handling of the film’s more outrageous elements. The most enjoyable aspect of Get the Hell Out lies in its hybrid of familiar contemporary styles, including the action cinematography of The Raid (2011), the blood showers of a Sion Sono film, Edgar Wright’s quick cuts and, most interestingly, pro wrestling fight choreography. This mix provides a novelty for the senses. It’s beyond logical, yet it’s sheer outrageousness and will keep your eyes peeled. Get the Hell Out is a treat for genre cinema lovers.

As a stunning debut work, Get the Hell Out achieves a mix of genres, comic flamboyance and social consciousness that is reminiscent of Boots Riley’s striking debut feature Sorry to Bother You (2018). Wang’s zombie apocalypse attains the same hyperbolic cinematic effect in its every act as a social reformist counterpart to Riley’s insurrection. The film may well also serve as a kind of a window to how Taiwanese mainstream commentaries process their own reality. At its core, Get the Hell Out is a very serious film that chooses fun as its medium.

Get the Hell Out was shown as part of the San Diego Asian Film Festival which ran from October 23-31 2020.

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