One of the great assets of Key & Peele is the show’s tremendous production value and attention to detail. Director Peter Atencio produces sketches with a keen cinematic eye and quality and it’s no surprise that Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key have refocused their priorities to the world of film.
Key and Peele have made it pretty clear that they’re horror aficionados—since their series’ second season they’ve made Halloween-centric installments a tradition—and with the announcement that Jordan Peele will be writing and directing Get Out for Blumhouse, his horror mettle is truly going to be put to the test. Accordingly, we’ve assembled the definitive list of the fifteen scariest sketches that Key & Peele ever turned out.
Key & Peele has dipped into the zombie well a number of times throughout the series (and really, with no end in sight for the popularity of the undead, who’s to blame them?). This entry not only looks at zombies hitting the suburbs, but also racist ones at that. It’s hilarious to see these zombies actively avoid our heroes, but the makeup here is extremely on point and boosts the fear factor up considerably. Add to the fact that Atencio utilizes a shaky handheld camera technique, and even briefly turns things into old-timey weathered film mode to create actual tension and fear for these characters.
Vampires are ripe for parody and this sketch takes to task the “sexy” aspects of vampirism, right down to the groupie aspect of those that have been turned. While successfully undercutting vampires, great work is done on not only conveying the vampire look (the vein-work done on Peele’s face is a great, disturbing touch) but also building a creepy location. As silly as this is, the blonde that’s getting fed on looks downright terrified through it all, which certainly helps push the illusion.
It’s actually a pretty inspired idea for a sketch to have a child who’s possessed with the devil (or is just seriously messed up) partake in the illustrious Make-A-Wish tradition. Right from the start the mood is appropriately set as an eerie lighting design strengthens the unnerving hushed performance that Peele is putting out as this demon child. The haunting laughter of children backs his twisted sing-song rhymes, but his wish requests are even worse. “I want to drown a man,” is his first demand, and it only gets more disturbing from there. The sketch truly lives in a dark world.
Prepared for Terries
So there might not be anything supernatural about this one like a lot of the inclusions on this list, but I defy you to tell me that you wouldn’t be just as terrified in this situation as you would with a werewolf or a Tremor? Key and Peele’s terrorist characters are straight up the creations of nightmares, and if their characters don’t freak you out the idea of dying in a plane crash should.
Ahhh, it’s zombies… again! This time around rather than race being the focus, it’s the idea of carnage and violence that’s the centerpiece. A botched mercy killing is looked at, and the sketch completely sells the grisly nature of it. It also takes place in what looks to be an abandoned church that’s creeped up to the nines, and this short sketch gets a lot done in a brief time.
Damn, Check That Shit Out
Another of the more subtly frightening sketches that are on the list, and perhaps not one that would immediately come to mind. The sketch deals with two guys starting what seems like bawdy talk until the one’s complete ignorance of the female body gets out of control. The end of the sketch is legitimately chilling (and shocking!) to learn that this ignorance is because Peele’s character is an alien trying to assemble data on our race. The future of this sketch’s universe holds an inevitable alien invasion, with Keegan’s character surely having gone mad from shouting about the alien invasion to deaf ears.
An Exorcist riff is always a good idea, especially when it’s a “blackout sketch” that completely sticks the landing. The show just truly goes above and beyond when it comes to the Exorcist makeup here. Peele looks absolutely horrifying, and that extra touch of “realism” makes the turn the sketch takes hit all the harder.
This sketch is another brilliant satire that uses race as its razor-sharp blade. There’s just something jarring about seeing people getting shot point-blank in the head. Then, there’s all the alien material, which is pretty upsetting in its own right, too. It’s great to see a relatively different design taken with the alien species.
There was certainly a time where it felt like everyone was doing a Saw parody in some capacity. What makes this one particularly strong—in spite of its brevity—is the immaculate attention to detail and set design here. The holding chambers are a disgusting, bloody mess, and the work done on their clown antagonizer is disturbing stuff. He’ll definitely be stuck in your mind for longer than the sketch’s short runtime.
Georgina and Esther and Satan
While there are a lot of laughs to be had here with Keegan and Jordan’s perfect imitations of southern churchgoers, I think the real takeaway here is the wonderful possession work that this sketch turns out! Seeing Georgina and Esther both be respectively possessed by Satan not only works visually (the red light emanating from them is a nice touch, too), but also the way in which they transform their voices is deeply frightening.
LMFAO’s Non-Stop Party
Maybe it’s just me, but I think the idea of being resigned to an EDM dance party for the rest of eternity is one of the most terrifying scenarios brought up on this list. This sketch works so well due to the slow build of it all, and seeing Key and Peele become increasingly erratic and freaked out by all of this. Their eventual realization that this is their Purgatory and they’re incapable of escaping—even after killing themselves–is a colossally messed up ending that you wouldn’t expect out of an EDM sketch. It’s part of why it cuts so deep.
Continental Breakfast/Airline Continental
Okay, it’s really just the endings here. As delightful as Peele’s portrayal of an overly exuberant traveller who’s just enamored with basic amenities is, there’s nothing scary about it (unless you’re really afraid of gluttony). For whatever reason though, both “Continental Breakfast” and its sequel choose to borrow from classic horror cinema for their codas, with “Breakfast” pulling from The Shining and “Continental Airline” servicing up Twilight Zone: The Movie’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Both completely kill it production-wise and as a result evoke the creepy terror from the films that they’re referencing.
A roommate meeting is a great premise wherein to base a sketch, especially if your apartment is experiencing a poltergeist. Part of why this sketch is so successful is that from the start it’s clear that all of the roommates’ problems are resulting from this ghost. But as loud and as broad as the performances in the foreground are, the ghost material going on in the background is expertly handled and a great counterpoint. The way the ghost just dips into frame is genuinely creepy and it actually jumps out in your face in a way that will scare you! Your guard is let down by the rest of the sketch, which allows the ghost device to really let loose.
Hall of Mirrors
The showdown at the hall of mirrors is no doubt one of my personal favorite horror/thriller clichés. Like most of their parodies, Key and Peele know exactly what they’re lampooning here and push the joke far. Peele’s deranged get-up—complete with echoing crazed voice–is perfect, and the layout and design of the hall of mirrors is really one of the more beautiful things that the show has put together (seriously, with the neon lights and gels being used this could pass for a scene out of Michael Mann’s Manhunter). As absurd as all of this is, seeing Peele infinitely refracted around a concerned Key as the soundtrack mounts is powerful stuff. You just get lost in the tension and fear, and plus, bloodshed!
Slightly taking a page out of “LMFAO’s Non-Stop Party’s” book, this sketch appears to innocently explore the Dubstep phenomena before taking a twisted turn for the worse. It’s amazing seeing the music just infect their bodies and take them over. Some of the most disturbing images from the show’s run are contained in this innocuous seeming sketch. We see teeth and fingernails being torn off, nuclear fallout, and one of our characters trying to end his life at the end of it all. Monsters and demons have their certain appeal, but sometimes Key & Peele’s scariest stuff could come out of something like this.
Each of these sketches adds a further notch in Peele’s horror repertoire, and clearly he has a wide berth of knowledge on the many sub-genres that populate the realm.
Peele has described Get Out as a “race fueled” horror thriller and as production of the film grows closer it should be interesting to see what other aspects of horror Peele will be indulging in for the picture. Whatever the choice is, it looks like we’re going to be in good hands.
Good–devil dick wringing, safety pin inserting in the urethra–hands.