There's a reason movie lovers were analyzing every second of the trailer for Jordan Peele's latest horror film Us when it dropped on Christmas Day. On the surface, it's a home invasion film starring a family on vacation who gets attacked by their doppelgängers. But the symbolism, the homages, the revolutionary Blackness of having a dark-skinned family at the center of a horror film all speak to Peele's intentionality in his craft.
After attending an #UsFirst screening of the film--part of a nationwide screening series for Black journalists--Shadow And Act's managing editor Brooke Obie, UCLA professor and Horror Noire executive producer Tananarive Due, culture curator Jasmyn Lawson, and AfroPunk columnist Clarkisha Kent all sat down with Peele to get into his intentions for the film and the future of the genre.
On the importance of #UsFirst screenings for Black journalists:
"Most early screenings in the history of this industry are disproportionately populated by white journalists," Peele said. "I'm trying to push representation into a place and into a type of story that we don't usually see it, so it would've been a big problem for me if Black journalists weren't included in the unveiling of this movie."
On the intentional Blackness of 'Us':
"Every notch along the way I recognized how important it was to have a dark-skinned family in the center of this movie," he said.
On the common thread between comedy and horror:
"Horror and comedy have several things in common, and one of those things to me is taking an absurd notion and...then you try to apply as much reality to it as possible," Peele said. "When you're tense, you need that laugh."
On the necessity of realism in horror:
"At the very least, I've got to provide an emotional reason that the audience goes, 'But I see why she did that, though!' Or, I have to have somebody voice what the audience is saying," Peele said.
On the future of Horror Noire:
"I want to keep telling stories, I want to keep pushing these boundaries of representation," said Peele. Through his work he hopes "to be able to normalize this idea of representation in film."