Saturday, October 28, 2023

Stay Out, on BET+

It is getting harder to make old fashioned voodoo-themed horror movies, but on paper, this one would sound like it found the key to unlock that subgenre for hyper-sensitive viewers. For Donovan Jones’s Uncle Rufus, voodoo was a means to protect himself from mid-Twentieth Century racism in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Unfortunately, his uncanny powers claim several innocent victims in Jared Safier’s Stay Out, which is now streaming on BET Plus.

Much to his surprise, Jones is informed he is the sole heir of his long-deceased uncle and aunt’s estate, primarily consisting of the family home that has languished for decades (hence the tape across the door, cautioning: “stay out”). Apparently, the incompetence of the firm handling the probate reached levels requiring state bar intervention. Be that as it may, Jones reluctantly agrees to travel to Blue Ridge, which apparently still has quite a backwards reputation. In fact, the only other black family living in town are William and Lauren, with their rebellious, Blue Ridge-hating teen daughter Raveen. However, for most of the film, they really will not have anything to do with Donovan Jones.

Instead, Uncle Rufus periodically possesses his nephew’s body, using it to murder the descendants of the men who murdered him. It is always deeply traumatizing for Jones, who tries to fight it, but without success. Of course, he usually gets stuck with the clean-up. He probably should have listened to the spooky homeless man who warned him to leave while he still could.

Stay Out
is presumably intended as horror, but it is hard to tell from the poky execution. Safier has a momentum-killing habit of repeating expositional dialogue in multiple scenes. The first act is so slow and flabby, most streamers will probably bail before the first murder.

Still, as Jones, Kareem J. Grimes handles the freak-outs quite nicely and Christopher Sky is impressively sinister as Uncle Rufus. Dane DiLiegro is also notable for first getting some laughs and then having a nice serious moment as Jones’s inappropriately randy co-worker, Graham. Unfortunately, their efforts are fatally undermined by the slow pacing and weak writing.

In fact, Safier and screenwriters Anthony D. Bell and Quinn Early also sabotage the anticipated sense of cathartic retribution. Do not let the title’s presumably intentional echo of
Get Out fool you. Stay Out really isn’t woke. Frankly, you could argue it reflects a conservative worldview, in which unchecked power leads to tragic horrors—but it still drags. Not recommended, Stay Out is now streaming on BET Plus.