Comedy actor to critically acclaimed horror director. A natural progression for the exponentially multitalented Jordan Peele.
Prior to his directorial debut Get Out (2017), Peele (with longtime comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key) was already an established face on many American’s screens. After years of appearing on comedy shows, as well as his own show, Key & Peele– whichran for five seasons, Peele would eventually make the move to writing and directing horror.
Before this move, however, action-comedy Keanu hit cinemas- just one year before Get Out. Audiences would see Key and Peele play cousins who had to infiltrate a gang in order to get their beloved kitten back. Yes, you heard me. Though the step from Keanu’s buddy-comedy premise to ‘social thriller’ Get Out may feel like an unusual leap, Peele’s comedy background brings a perfectly tailored sense of humour to his films. He may make supernatural and alien horror films, but they will never lack humanity.
He may make supernatural and alien horror films, but they will never lack humanity
Get Out made an incredible entry film as Peele’s first feature writing, directing, and producing with his newly formed company Monkeypaw Productions. Black identity, racial awareness, and white privilege are just some of the themes covered, set to the backdrop of a thriller that gradually gains pace and tension, before releasing it all in the extraordinary finale. This low-budget horror, filmed in only 23 days, would go on to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and be named the Best Sci-fi/Horror at the 2018 Critic’s Choice Awards. It would also shoot lead Daniel Kaluuya into stardom, earning him numerous acting nominations.
To follow this incredible start to directing horror, Peele released Us in 2019. This would see Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family get attacked by strange intruders in red, who turn out to be evil doppelgängers of the family. If Get Out was a great start, Us was chugging a red bull and doing an extra 10 laps. Peele will never fail to impress with the complexity of his narratives, and Us is no different; even though it’s a chilling slasher to the bone, the story is just as important as the scares. Socially and culturally relevant themes are paramount to Peele’s work: we once again see themes of black identity in Us, as well as notes on class divides in America (note how the title itself could be seen as U.S). With a mind-blowing final scene, Us solidified Jordan Peele’s already world-renowned status as a writer/director to be completely obsessed with.
If Get Out was a great start, Us was chugging a red bull and doing an extra 10 laps
For his third feature, Peele brought audiences a wonderfully insane combination of horror, sci-fi, and western in the form of 2022’s Nope. Once again absolutely knocking it out of the park, this oddly subdued thriller follows Daniel Kaluuya’s OJ as he and his sister (played by an ever-entertaining Keke Palmer) discover an alien hovering over their ranch. The characterisation is perfect: from Kaluuya’s introverted but quietly intelligent OJ, to Brandon Perea’s bizarrely childlike but ultimately incredibly helpful Angel ‘the tech guy’. This film has appeared to be difficult to pin down for many audiences, the unusual genre and narrative throwing you off the scent, and terrifying you with horrific scenes of blood-thirsty monkeys and the suffocating insides of an alien. However, in my eyes at least, it’s the perfect next step into the incredible mind of Jordan Peele. The laugh you couldn’t possibly stifle as OJ slowly closes his car door after seeing the alien overhead and mutters a small “nope”, is the perfect blend of thrilling tension and deadpan comedy that makes Peele such a fascinating horror writer and director.
Some of his other works include 2018’s BlacKkKlansman where he acted as co-producer, 2021’s Candyman which he co-wrote, and Henry Selick’s 2022 Netflix film Wendell and Wild, which saw Peele as writer, producer, and star (back alongside Key, of course). Jordan Peele has undoubtedly become a mammoth name in the film industry, and gathered a cult following of fans who know he should be celebrated all year round, and who are eager to see what he comes up with next.