Referencing History, Not Repeating It
Jordan Peele’s move from acting to directing came with a significant break in tone. Known for skits, drama, and comedy, Peele’s move into the horror genre was a surprise. His success, however, was not. One of the reasons that the two films Peele has written and directed have been so incredibly well received is because they are pieces of media made to be pulled apart and examined. Many critics have lamented the fact that these movies require analyzing in order to fully understand them, but enjoying them doesn’t have to come at the expense of a historic catalog of references from which to draw.
Peele’s Get Out and Us are both masterpieces of horror in their own right. They are intimate and expansive, personal and political, private and public. These two movies investigate horrors against Black people and Black America with a critical narrative and an eye for irony.
But what of the references?
Peele’s work in horror closely mirrors the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Thematically and narratively, the expansion of chaos and the control of the worlds he has created have led to a string of deliberate and obvious ties. Psycho and Get Out follow a similar formula, as do The Birds and Us. There is a generational torch for horror filmmakers, and the pass from Hitchcock to Peele seems natural, but I want to stress that there’s more to this theory than merely Peele stepping in as the next horror auteur in American cinema.