Jordan Peele surprised everyone when he made the jump from comedy on his skit shot Key & Peele to horror with his hit film Get Out. The film followed the young black photographer Chris Washington and his visit to his white girlfriend’s estate. The visit seems calm if not awkward for the way that her family talks about how much they adore black people. But then things take a dark turn when Chris learns the real reason why he’s come to visit her parents. And it just so happens to do with a horrifying science fiction twist.
Peele’s film wasn’t just a surprise of a horror film but an insightful one that provided great commentary on the nature of racism in America. His film satirized and criticized the well-meaning white people who believe they’re allies of African-Americans while still benefiting off a system that subjugates black people. In addition to being such a profound work of modern horror, it was also a stylish and oftentimes darkly comical film.
The huge success of Get Out, which led to both a big box office and an Academy Award, opened major doors for Peele to be both a director and producer of more horror productions. There’s clearly a market for more thoughtful and satirical horror films. Thankfully, you don’t have to look too far to find more of the same. Here are ten films that reflect that same sensation coursing throughout Get Out.
Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out took a much different approach to depicting the horrors of losing individuality in a world where unity can be frightening. Adelaide is a woman who experienced a traumatic event during her childhood where she met a doppelganger on the beach. She returns to such a place when she is all grown up with a husband and two children. Her fears about returning such a place are well-placed when her family is attacked by what appear to be clones of themselves. The clones pursue them as other duplicates pop up around the world to slaughter others and form a mysterious ring of hands. Peele’s picture features plenty of creepy imagery as well as a profound contemplation on the nature of American individualism. Peppered with humor and horror, this intense film features a cast that includes Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, and Shahadi Wright Joseph.
Sorry To Bother You
Cash, a black man struggling to find a job, takes on the role of a calling salesman to make ends meet. He finds that he becomes incredibly adept at his job by using the strangely effective technique of duplicating the voice of a white man. This skill takes him far within the company and it isn’t long before he finds himself on the upper echelon of organization, rubbing elbows with other black men who have made it far using the same voice. What Cash doesn’t expect is just how corrupt such a company can be when it comes to labor. Written and directed by Boots Riley, this is an incredibly surprising satire on the nature of work culture with a strange sci-fi twist. The cast includes Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer.
Cabin in the Woods
Directed by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, World War Z) and co-written by Joss Whedon (Avengers: Age of Ultron), this darkly comedic horror romp takes aim at satirizing the very conventions of horror films and their tropes. The premise is a familiar one where the college students of Dana, Jules, Curt, Holden, and Marty all take off for a cabin vacation in the woods. What they don’t realize is that a secret and sinister organization behind the scenes is orchestrating their demise in an elaborate scheme of horror movie logic. As the students try to investigate further, they make the discovery of just how complex this horror-staging operation goes and what’s at stake for such cruelty. The quirky cast includes Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford.
Set in a dystopian future of America, the country has taken a drastic step to curb the crime within the nation. To get out the aggression of Americans, the government institutes that for twelve hours on one day a year, all crime will be legal. The streets will run rampant with violence as murderers can get away with their crimes. Only the wealthy will be able to afford the proper security to avoid the violent people who seek to murder during the purge. One such family takes in a wounded man during the purge and finds themselves targeted by a mob of masked individuals. As a more grounded and horrific depiction of a dystopian future, The Purge was written and directed by James DeMonaco with a cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, and Max Burkholder. As another modestly budgeted horror film, The Purge would spawn a series of sequels (The Purge: Anarchy, The Purge: Election Year), a prequel (The First Purge), and a TV series.
In a deeply divided America, politics has reached a level so chaotic that things start turning violent. A group of far-right conservatives find themselves awakening in a field. They soon find themselves being picked off one by one from hunters and traps in the surrounding areas. It is only when they come up close to their captors that they realize they have been kidnapped by liberal elites and forced to be hunted for sport. But they’ve literally kidnapped the wrong prey when Crystal Creasey finds herself as the most accomplished, able to see through all the dirty tricks and traps of the deadly game she’s been forced into. Directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance) and written by Jason Blum (The Purge) and Damon Lindelof (World War Z), this modern take on The Most Dangerous Game features the talents of Ike Barinholtz, Betty Gilpin, Amy Madigan, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee, and Hilary Swank.
Considered as one of John Carpenter’s most political films of the 1980s, They Live portrays the ills of America through aliens just as grotesque. A wandering traveler known only as Nada finds himself working as a construction worker and living in a tent town with the other homeless people of the era. But when he stumbles into a church’s secret organization, he uncovers a covert alien invasion where beings from another world have manipulated humans into a consumerist state. Nada may be on his own to show humanity the truth about what has led to such inequality in the world. Based on a short story by Ray Nelson, the film’s cast includes Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster.
The People Under the Stairs
A young boy known as Fool breaks into a mysterious home owned by a duo of cruel landlords within an urban community. Though he discovers that the couple has weird methods of punishment and kinks in the bedroom, he happens upon a shocking dungeon of strange beings that reside under the stairs. Written and directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), this American horror stars Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, and A. J. Langer.
A mysterious white substance is found on Earth that is quickly produced and marketed as the tastiest treat on the market. All that most people know about the fluffy white gelatin is that it makes for a great snack and is highly addictive. What they don’t realize is that this mysterious goo is taking hold of the human population, transforming them into grotesque monsters that melt and ooze the weird substance known only as The Stuff. Directed by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive), this sci-fi satire commenting on gentrification features a cast that includes Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, and Paul Sorvino.
Based on a short story by Clive Barker (Hellraiser), Candyman tells the tale of the titular urban legend. As a slave who was murdered in the 19th century for having relations with a wealthy white man’s daughter, graduate student Helen Lyle digs into the history behind such a person. What she unearths, however, seems very much real as the deadly ghost of the past returns to the 1990s to bring forth more vengeance and violence for his demise. The film went onto the sequels of Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Day of the Dead (1999), as well as a 21st-century remake in 2021.
Night of the Living Dead
The most classic of zombie movies happens to be the most profound in terms of its societal commentary. The film takes place in the country where a zombie outbreak has overtaken the community. As the dead rise from their graves, an unlikely group of survivors try to survive the night in a house, boarding up the windows and defending themselves with whatever weapons they can find. But they’ll have to put their differences aside if they hope to survive the zombies swarming around them. Directed by George A. Romero, this marks the first entry in his Dead zombie series which continued with such films as Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985).