Tyrel (2018)

Directed by Sebastian Silva
Country: USA

Tyrel is a totally missed shot by Chilean director Sebastián Silva, whose past releases alternate between the delightful (The Maid; Crystal Fairy) and the mediocre (Magic Magic; Nasty Baby).

We’re living complicated times where racial tensions keep escalating and symptoms of fear, anxiety, and violence are visibly abundant. Aware of all this, Silva wrote a plot that is conceptually logic and unequivocal, a sort of counterpoint to Jordan Peele’s Get Out that would likely lure more adepts if less diffuse in the message and more consistent in tone.

Jason Mitchell is Tyler, an African American young man who willingly joins his good friend John (Christopher Abbott) in an all-men weekend party in the Catskill Mountains. This opportunity will give him a break from certain family problems that have been bothering him lately.

The house where they’re going to stay, owned by John’s Argentine friend Nico (Nicolas Arze), suddenly becomes jammed with a bunch of peculiar white dudes he doesn’t know. While some of the guys are nice, like Alan (Michael Cera) or Max (executive producer Max Borne), others are somewhat provocative in their behavior, cases of Peter (Caleb Landry Jones) and Dylan (Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum). Frivolous conversation leads to silly games; alcohol leads to weed; everything starts rolling at a fast pace. Despite of a Trump doll hang in the living room and ready to be wrecked by torture, Tyrel becomes notably uncomfortable for being the only black person in the house.

The first night was tense, yet pacific; the second, maddening wild; both were prosaically banal. In our heads, we portray all those guys as racists and sadistic bastards ready to devour Tyler just for their own amusement. But nothing ever really happens and we feel somewhat betrayed by the pointless situations created. This sense of futility and deception was magnified from the moment I noticed that, after all, movie title and main character don’t share the same name - former is Tyrel, latter is Tyler.

With our alcohol-drenched hero programmed to act in paranoia mode, the film takes us to a neighboring house, where Silvia (Ann Dowd), her saxophonist husband (Reg E. Cathey), and their kid meet an afflicted Tyler. Are they the friendly type?

There is probably more religious turmoil here than actually racial, and the story progresses with a nonsensical self-contentment without delivering a single thrill. It doesn’t take us too long to understand Silva’s idea, in the same manner that we realize that the aimless script is populated with under-written characters. Tyrel breaks at the weight of its own ambition, feeling like an undergraduate exercise in tension. Sadly, even that tension is wasted.