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The legendary comedian and filmmaker has turned the horror genre upside down. Now, expectations are even higher for his latest project following last year’s release of a movie poster and the recent movie trailer.
The poster for Nope features a large, dark cloud trailing a string that ominously hovers over a brightly lit town. The town’s nestled in a valley surrounded by fields and mountains. Text above the clouds–“A new terror from the mind of Academy Award winner Jordan Peele”–add to the expectation that the latest installment from Peele promises to be another thriller full of twists and turns.
Black and Asian-American actors lead
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, a Black British actor whose character was one of the few to survive Peele’s debut film Get Out, many are wondering whether Nope will be a sequel or a standalone film.
Slated to be released on July 22, 2022, the film also stars Keke Palmer, an African American actor known for her role in Akeelah and the Bee and the cartoon The Proud Family. Notably, the film’s third leading character happens to be Steven Yeun, who gained national fame for his scrappy, lovable character in the hit TV show The Walking Dead. Asian American characters appear even more rarely in horror films than Black characters, and few have highlighted them with starring roles.
With Jordan Peele’s breakout hit Get Out in 2017, which earned him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, he proved to the world that not only can horror films with a mostly Black cast be scary, they can also be profitable.
Get Out earned $255.4 million globally on a $5 million budget, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which means the film earned 50 times more revenue than it took to make it. Peele also made history, becoming the first Black person to win an Oscar for original screenplay.
Jordan Peele is a GOAT in the horror film genre
As if changing the horror genre and making it more appealing to a wider audience wasn’t enough, he followed up his debut success with Us in 2019, a film that forced us to recognize the terror within ourselves. He secured another $255.1 million bag for that hit at the global box office as part of a five-year deal between his film company Monkeypaw Productions and Universal Studios.
It’s rare for horror films to slide into the mainstream, even rarer still for horror filmmakers to have subsequent films do as well as the original. Other notable GOATS in the genre include Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984), John Carpenter (Halloween 1978), James Wan (The Conjuring 2013) and Jason Blum (Insidious 2010).
Yet, Jordan Peele has captivated the world twice with his unique style that blends contemporary issues with universal themes. While many may doubt he’s risen to that level at this point in his career, as an avid horror film fan whose watched cult classics and campy contemporaries, I believe Jordan Peele will eventually be recognized as one of the greatest horror film director of all time.
Perhaps most importantly, he’s taking a bulldozer to the metaphorical glass ceiling by erasing the notion that Black people must always die first in a horror film.
Jordan Peele’s unique brand diverges from the all-too-familiar jump scares plaguing most horror films today. Instead, Peele is bringing back the original elements of the genre made famous by the late Alfred Hitchcock.
Jordan Peele is on par with the legendary Alfred Hitchcock
Having seen Hitchcock’s 1960 cult classic Pyscho and his 1963 film The Birds, I noticed that like Peele, Hitchcock’s films were less about cheap scares and more about character development with drawn-out plots. Giving audiences time to get to know the characters and thrillingly setting up the horrors to come make for a better film because the more attached to the characters the audience can become, the more jarring it is for them when that character dies or when a twisting plot point is finally revealed.
Beyond revamping and revolutionizing the genre, Jordan Peele has carried the torch passed down to him by early Black pioneers in the horror genre.
George A. Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead featured Black actor Duane Jones as a main character named Ben. It represented the first high-profile horror film with a Black lead. Similar to Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Night of the Living Dead featured Ben in an unsettling environment surrounded by White people. While his hero character protects the otherwise clueless and helpless White folks, he’s ultimately killed by a White man who mistook him for a zombie.
Since then, it’s become one of Hollywood’s favorite pastimes to kill off Black characters as quickly as possible in horror films–until Jordan Peele came along.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Nope will have us fearing clouds or laughing at them. But if his previous films are any clue, this latest production certainly won’t disappoint.