The “Key & Peele” comedy series never quite grew on me the way it has on others. I’ve watched a sketch here and there – typically those from the show that go viral – but each time I’ve actually decided to watch entire episodes, I’ve never felt fully satisfied. So it’s not a series that I can claim to be fanatic about – not like I was about a show like “In Living Color” 20 years ago. But it could also be that I’ve grown weary of sketch comedy TV series in general. There aren’t any currently that I watch with any regularity, instead settling for viral bits and pieces.
Here’s what Peele shared about the project: “I’ve been spending the first half of my career focusing on comedy but my goal, in all honesty, is to write and direct horror movies. I have one that I’m working on with Darko Entertainment called Get Out – I don’t want to say too much about it, but it is one of the very, very few horror movies that does jump off of racial fears. That to me is a world that hasn’t been explored. Specifically, the fears of being a black man today. The fears of being any person who feels like they’re a stranger in any environment that is foreign to them. It deals with a protagonist that I don’t see in horror movies.”
Well, nothing says “horror” in America (much of the world, really) than these 2 words: “black man.” Recent news headlines tell the sordid tale.
Peele doesn’t share much about the project, but I’m definitely intrigued. I wonder if it’ll be “serious” horror, or if he’ll incorporate his “Key & Peele” stylo, producing something that’s more comedic than horrific. I’d prefer the former.
But he’s right – despite fantastical genres like horror, being the near-perfect spaces in which to tackle matters of racial division, it’s not often that horror movies take advantage of that. It’s also a matter of how it’s handled. I’d prefer something smart and subtle, maybe more metaphoric, than a decidedly heavy-handed approach.
I immediately think of George Romero’s seminal “Night of the Living Dead,” which the filmmaker has said repeatedly wasn’t created to provide any commentary on race relations on America; he just happened to cast Duane Jones – a black actor – as the lead, because he “simply gave the best audition,” Romero has said. But it’s hard to ignore the symbolism in the death of Jones’ character that comes at the end of the movie – first, a heroic figure, the only black character in the starring cast, and a rather uneventful death at the hands of a group of rednecks, not-so long after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 1968) and Malcolm X (February 1965). The film was released in the USA in October 1968, 6 months after MLK’s death.
Whether you believe Romero’s lack of intention or not, he’s certainly sticking to his story.
Of course, we’re also familiar with the pathetic, though oh-so commonplace – to the point of being hilarious – tropes seen in horror movies since then; that being, the killing off of black characters early on in the story. It’s become a running joke on this blog – the expectation that the, usually, sole black character will indeed die (sometimes to save a white character), with the debate being when exactly, during the film, it will happen.
I wonder whether Peele’s project will address any of the above.
But I’ll keep an ear open for any future updates on Peele’s “Get Out’ project, and will share here when I know more.