Peele and His Horrors: A Brief Introduction

I still remember the day I went to watch Us in the cinema with my friends after a long day of college where we were trying to make our own (quite rubbish) films. We had thought we needed to rejuvenate our artistic senses by seeing Peele’s new offering. A crowd of five of us stuffed ourselves in the middle of the screening and waited in the dark to finally feast on Peele’s sophomore film Us. Michael Abels’ haunting, rhythmic chanting that opened the film, with the red eyes of a white rabbit peering at us all the while had my heart chanting and twisting with excitement. I remember feeling ill, shocked, terrified and quite impressed by the end of the screening, so all in all I felt it a brilliant social horror.

Peele, interestingly enough, spent his pre-film career doing comedy and his Obama impression had him performing for the president himself in the White House. Horror, however, Peele professes is his first love. His upcoming film Nope, set to be released this summer, is a mysterious new addition to his filmography with an exceptionally intriguing backstory attached to the title. It turns out Nope was inspired by the lively reactions of people in the cinema, especially Black audiences, when they sit down for a good old fashioned horror picture. They call out, saying, ‘Nope!’ to the dangers lurking on screen. He compares horror films to roller coasters, citing they are no fun alone, and that the unique audience experience is ‘what he loves to encourage’.

Peele is a master of thrills and his horrors take on a very particular lens which both provokes and pushes viewers into questioning what is truly horrifying in this world of ours. Using the horror genre as his medium, Peele explores various pertinent themes such as classism and race through use of social allegories, ongoing motifs and symbolism. Where Get Out is a clever and frightening visualisation of modern day racism and fetishism that Black Americans face to this day, Us is an elaborate critique of class systems and poverty. His films function to psychologically as well as physically stimulate audiences - they don’t have a spooky ghost hiding in the dark waiting to scare us. He uses humans and our world to portray the true monsters, the ones inside ourselves. Peele confirms that his ‘works are pointed at this idea of humanity’s dark side’. He uses our fear of the other, he explains, and turns the tables to force us to acknowledge what we truly fear; ‘Our sin, our guilt, our contribution to our own demise,’ which no one wants to own up to.

Knowing all this, I’m wracked with excitement for Nope and to unpeel what he’s got to offer us next.

Sofia Akram, Youth Board Member

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