Let’s Talk About… Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele, 'Get Out' - Best Director 33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards, Los Angeles, USA - 03 Mar 2018. Photo by Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock (9447411jh)

Jordan Peele made history last year when he became the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his masterpiece Get Out. That year, Peele also received nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. His psychological thriller was a huge success at the box office and put Peele on the radar in a huge and exciting way.

Earlier this year, Monkeypaw Productions released Peele’s second psychological thriller, Us. The movie also received great critical acclaim and starred Lupita Nyong’o, who gave a phenomenal Oscar-worthy performance. In 2020, he will release Candyman, which will follow in the footsteps of his previous features.

But what is it that makes Jordan Peele thrillers so… horrifying? There is minimal gore and there are no ghouls or monsters. Instead, the true horror of Peele’s thrillers lies in the horrors that exist in modern society.

Peele uses horror as a tool for bringing these underlying problems to the surface. At the core of the suspense in Get Out is the looming presence of institutionalized racism and in Us, Peele uses uncanny mirroring to depict the arbitrary division of class.

Speaking with Digital Edition, Peele explained the “social thriller” characteristic of his movies: “I define “social thriller” as thriller/horror movies where the ultimate villain is society.”

He continued: “The next movies will be very different, I think, in terms of how on the nose they are. I wanna be a little more allegorical and cinematic. But at the heart of all my future movies is this idea of giving (people) something fun but addressing some sort of innately human demon we’re dealing with every day. “

This is certainly apparent in Us, where the “villains” below suffer at the hands of those above. A downward escalator signifies the “social ladder” that working-class Americans are encouraged to climb. The ladder may be there, but that doesn’t make it any easier to climb when the odds are against you.

Having recently just re-watched both Us and Get Out, I now regard Candyman as one the most anticipated movies of 2020. As a director, Peele masters suspense and horror in a way that few others can. As a writer, he highlights underlying social issues which are more horrifying than any monster in the Insidious franchise.