We peel back the layers of the year’s best horror with the appealing director, Jordan Peele.
Director Jordan Peele on the year’s surprise smash, Get Out
ONE OF THE most vibrant, original and downright brilliant horror movies in years,
Get Out was critically acclaimed, grossed a stunning $250 million (off a $5 million budget), and was a particular triumph for its writerdirector, Jordan Peele. After making his name as a comedian alongside Keegan-michael Key in the TV show Key & Peele and last year’s Keanu, Peele switched gears comprehensively with this tale of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young African-american man who gets more than he bargained for when he visits his new girlfriend’s seemingly ultra-liberal white parents out in the sticks. Dealing directly with themes of race, isolation and oppression, it’s clearly a personal movie for Peele. Did the success of the movie take you by surprise, to some extent? Yeah. I wanted to make a horror movie that would be one of my favourite horror movies, ultimately. The most I could have hoped for was that the movie would help generate conversations about the issues [in it]. I’m continually surprised with how far it’s gone and how many times people rewatch it. Did you specifically want to create a movie centred around a black lead? That was a huge thing. Giving the black audience, first of all, a character that not only represented them physically but represented the Africanamerican identity, which is a heightened sense of scepticism and awareness of the dangers of putting oneself in a potentially horrific situation. The African-american experience is a little bit closer to horror, I think, and a more horrific experience than we’d like it to be. And the black male identity has been portrayed with a certain lack of vulnerability. For instance, the image of Chris crying out of pure fear and panic in that one moment in Get Out, that image has resonated. He’s a striking guy, but also because we haven’t, as black men, been allowed to be vulnerable in that way. It struck people as a long time coming and it goes to a history of our fears being denied. That image is so striking that it was used as the poster image over here. I was pretty involved in the marketing. It was important to me that the movie wasn’t sold as torture porn. That’s a genre I think people are tired of. The poster in England is actually more torturous than the one we had come out here. The original ending saw things go very wrong, didn’t it? On the DVD and Blu-ray we have the originally intended ending which was grim and involved Chris going to prison. It’s very dark. It was originally meant to be a sobering moment and bring us to the horror of reality. Upon testing the
original cut, it was quite clear that the audience needed something more hopeful and fun. You’ve been in that situation Chris finds himself in, where he’s one of only two black guys at a party. How much did your own experiences as an African-american inform the film? Grappling with the feeling of being a minority is a common experience. It even translates to gender. Being the only woman at a party full of men is a situation where you’re seen for your identity before you’re seen as an individual with a soul. Whereas the interactions aren’t necessarily hateful, the accumulation and the totality of being recognised for what you are as opposed to who you are takes a toll and puts you in a state that’s very vulnerable and very paranoia-inducing. Which ends up being a perfect state, storytelling wise, for the protagonist of a horror movie. The revelation in the movie, of a secret society dedicated to placing their consciousnesses into the bodies of black men and women, is batshit crazy. But the invasiveness of what they’re doing, the dehumanisation of their victims, is interesting. Is that personal to you? That’s the part of the black experience and the relationship, in this country, of cultural appropriation that I hadn’t really seen dealt with. The demeaning element of cultural appropriation is it feels like we’re valued for the art we bring, the physicality we bring to sports, the things that we make out of our pain and oppression are valued, but the humanity and the soul still are not. There was something about taking what’s advantageous and leaving the rest that is allegorical with slavery and the prison-industrial system. Get Out has been talked about as a possible Oscar contender. Horror is often sneered at in those terms. Do you even allow yourself to think about that? I’m very honoured to be thought about in that light. The coolest thing about the discussion for me is the idea that horror can be respected enough to be in that conversation. That being said, I don’t have any expectations. I made the movie because I felt like we weren’t having healthy conversations about race. What Rosemary’s Baby did for gender is what I wanted to do for the racial discussion.
GET OUT IS OUT NOW ON DOWNLOAD AND ON 24 JULY ON DVD AND BLU-RAY
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is caught. Right, top to bottom: Rose (Allison Williams) and Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) head to her parents’; In-laws from hell Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener); Jordan Peele on set with Georgina (Betty Gabriel).