Jordan Peele’s brilliance makes horror accessible

The filmmaker weaves together the horror of racism with classic tropes of the genre

Jordan Peele does horror right.
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I’ve never liked horror movies. Something about the combination of jump scares, Ouija boards, and dolls made me retreat from the entire genre. After seeing about five “essential” horror films, I vowed to never waste two hours on a movie like Paranormal Activity again.

Despite my reservations, I agreed to see Get Out in theatres the week it was released.

In the theatre, I felt every part of my brain light up. My heartbeat quickened and my hands shook as I was sucked into Jordan Peele’s brilliant, exhilarating, horrific depiction of a Black man’s nightmare.

The film opens with a Black man walking alone at night in a white suburb. It’s reminiscent of the Trayvon Martin case, alluding to a real-life pattern of the danger Black men can face in white spaces, and sets the movie up perfectly for the racial thriller that ensues.

The best part of Jordan Peele’s writing, other than the microaggressions that become increasingly eerie as the film progresses, is the realism of it all. Situating Get Out in present day, post-racial America, and having the villains be the white neighbours who “voted for Obama” makes the nightmare feel unnaturally realistic. And the cold, calculating femme fatale of the movie did an incredible job of bringing my worst fears as an audience member to life.

It’s terrifying and whip-smart. Peele tackles racial politics while staying true to the horror genre, with dead animals, an unearthly score, and moments of action that make you jolt in your seat. I was shocked at how deeply I was invested in the movie, and how terrified I was for days after viewing it.

I became a Jordan Peele fan instantly. When Us came out, I was back in theatres to see a horror movie trope reinvented with a meditation of America’s self-destruction as a prevalent undercurrent. If you haven’t seen it, the plot follows a Black family who’s attacked by mysterious figures—and these figures turn out to look exactly like them.

Lupita Nyong’o anchors the film, playing Red and Adelaide, two distinct doppelgangers who are irrevocably codependent. Though I wasn’t enthralled by Us the same way I was by Get Out, I appreciated the concept of the film along with the incredible storytelling. It wasn’t directly about race but left me reflecting on how our greatest enemies are actually monstrous versions of us.

Peele has the magical ability to bring horror movie lovers and haters together. He balances brilliant social commentary with classic tropes of the genre, allowing him to create his own distinct version of horror storytelling.

Though I haven’t seen Candyman yet, Jordan Peele has opened my eyes to how thrilling horror movies can be—when they’re done right. This Halloween, I’ll be ditching The Conjuring to re-watch Get Out for the fifth time, and I’ll probably be blown away again by the intricacies of the film.

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