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Perspective: When The Message Transcends The Gore

Susan Stephens



Hitchcock. Romero. Carpenter. Craven. Del Torro. And now, Peele.  


The horror genre is a brilliant genre of film, but often the most dismissed. The thing about horror is that many people get caught up in the blood and gore, and some films can take that over the top in extreme ways. But the mark of great horror is the ability to play with metaphors that encourage viewers to reflect more deeply about the human condition and the state of the times. For example, Romero’s original zombie vehicle, Night of the Living Dead, was a metaphor concerning the rampant xenophobia and segregation of the 1960s. 


Jordan Peele, formerly of comedy duo Key and Peele, is the latest master. His 2017 instant classic Get Out is one of only a few horror films nominated for a best picture Oscar. The film brilliantly examines the nature of race in America in ways that encouraged conversation across groups. 


His latest offering, Us, is equally searing. This time, Peele tackles socioeconomics. A family is pursued by another family, one that looks just like them -- with homicidal intentions. The film is a metaphor for what we lose in our quest for economic prosperity. Many first-generation college students are familiar with this. 


What is even more special is that Peele tells a story with a black family as the lead, but they are the norm. The movie isn’t about a black family. It is about us. Horror films have the ability to force us to consider challenging issues once we have absorbed the gore. Sometimes we all need to be pushed into a space of exploration -- and there is no way to watch a Peele film and not consider the deeper issues at play. 


Go see it. Go see both of them.  


I am Joseph Flynn and that is my perspective. 

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