When it comes to the best horror visionaries of the 21st century, it is most likely that Jordan Peele’s name will crop up. He rose to fame for his comedic acting alongside Keegan-Michael Key in the hit shows Mad TV and Key & Peele and the two are still often cast together such as their voice work in last year’s Toy Story 4. Aside from being a comedian, Peele is also an avid horror film fan and turned his attention to writing and directing horror films that have redefined the genre in recent years. He has released two films so far, Get Out (2017) and Us (2019) which have both been resounding successes both criticall and commercially, which is fantastic for a rising voice in the horror genre especially. His films are original and topical, using the horror genre to explore the African American experience in modern-day America.
A four-time Oscar nominee, Peele is one of a few who has been nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for his debut, winning the latter for 2017’s stellar Get Out. He has received an additional Best Picture nomination for his contribution as Producer for Spike Lee’s incredible BlacKkKlansman (2018). Despite only having two films under his directorial repertoire, Peele is set to become a master of the horror genre and it’s exciting to see what films he creates next.
Get Out (2017)
Peele’s directorial debut was a game-changer in many ways. The hype for this film spread like wildfire and it soon became one of the most critical and commercial successes of 2017. Following African-American photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) who sets off with his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her family over the weekend which gradually shifts from a nervous first encounter to a nightmare beyond belief. Peele flips the horror genre on its head with Get Out. Horror films in general tend to exaggerate racial stereotypes a lot more than other genres but what Peele absolutely rejects this and gives us an array of characters who are well-rounded with their own background stories and motives thanks to the incredible script. The film is filled with so many layers that you can notice something different every time you watch the film. From the brilliant supporting performances from Lakeith Stanfield and Lil Rel Howery to Michael Abels’ impeccable score. What sets it apart from other horrors is that the villains are white middle-class liberals whereas a lot of racism in horror is at the hands of the right-wing. The film was nominated for a slew of awards including nominations for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Kaluuya, winning Peele the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in a year that was incredibly strong in competition. Get Out is only 3 years old and yet has already solidified itself as a horror classic and will certainly be marked as a milestone for the genre.
Peele’s follow up is another demonstration of his talent as a skilled writer and director. Starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo’o as Adelaide, a woman who is haunted by a traumatic encounter she experienced as a child, and her family as they go on vacation. Aside from a couple of weird coincidences, everything seems to be going okay until the family are confronted by a family of doppelgangers who attempt to kill their counterparts. Us is a highly intense film filled with puzzle pieces that are eventually placed together. It is a joy to watch and Nyongo’o’s performance particularly is a knockout. To simply compare this film to Get Out would be ridiculous because they are so different in tone. Again, Michael Abels’ score is absolutely brilliant with its classical elements to reflect Adelaide’s ballet background. Gifted with four times the budget Get Out had, Peele takes advtange using multiple locations and the cast as expected is flawless with Winston Duke playing Adelaide’s husband, Gabe and Elisabeth Moss as family friend, Kitty leading the supporting cast. It’s a shame that this film wasn’t included in the awards circuit, especially for Peele’s screenplay and Nyongo’o’s spectacular performance.
Thanks to his genius and contribution, Peele has helped horror become the best genre to explore topical issues. He is clearly inspired and admires horror films but isn’t afraid to reject the stereotypes and add his own voice to the mix. It’s incredible to think how much Peele has achieved in the space of a few years and only serves for further excitement as to what projects he works on next, including as screenwriter and producer for the upcoming Candyman.
What do you think of Jordan Peele’s film? Let me know in the comments below!