Learn more about the multi-talented filmmaker’s genius and the highly anticipated film, Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022).
By: Sophia Lin
There’s no doubt you’ve heard of the famous mind behind some of the best horror movies out there, from Get Out (2017) to Us (2019). Not to mention, one of the screenwriters for Candyman (2021) and the writer-director of the hugely anticipated horror film Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022). It goes without saying that Jordan Peele is a master of horror filmmaking… but the big question is, how does he do it?
Few directors are able to churn out hit after hit, and even fewer are able to redefine a genre. Peele has certainly done both, and we’re here to let you in on how. We will look into his writing process, his directorial style, and what exactly separates him from the rest. We’ll dive deep into his impact on the horror genre and the social commentary he embeds in his work. Without further ado, let’s get into how exactly Jordan Peele has become one of the best horror directors!
How Jordan Peele Became Jordan Peele
Let’s start from the beginning. What lead Jordan Peele to create some of the best horror films of our generation?
Jordan Peele famously started in comedy. While attending Sarah Lawrence College, he dropped out to perform in stand-up and improv. After various stints for four years, he finally got his first big break as an actor in the comedy series MadTV. This led him to meet his future collaborator Keegan-Michael Key and from there, the comedy sketch series Key & Peele was born.
As his work gathered acclaim and virality, including an Emmy nomination along the way, Peele broke into the directing world with his debut feature film Get Out. Both a critical and commercial success, Get Out launched Peele into international attention — and he hasn’t looked back since!
Jordan Peele’s Directorial Style
Society as the Greatest Evil
A trademark of a Jordan Peele horror movie is that it’s not really a horror movie. At least not in the traditional sense, in which a big bad must be overcome and destroyed. Peele has said that the antagonists in his films aren’t truly the source of evil, but rather, the system as a whole is evil.
In Peele’s words, his work explores “the horror of society”, focusing on the depravity already contained within humanity. One of the best examples is the Armitage family in Get Out — a reflection of America and the fatal racial tensions that lurk in today’s society.
Comedy and Horror
While it might not be surprising, Peele’s multifaceted experience in the industry factors into his unique voice as a horror director. More interestingly, it’s his work in comedy that informs his horror movies. One makes you laugh and one makes you scream, but as he says, there’s really a very thin line between the two realms.
Both are based in realism and relatability: comedy and horror both work the most effectively when the world feels believable, with only one or two heightened changes. Another crucial similarity comes in the timing. Well-timed jump-scares are truly no different than well-placed jokes in a story. It’s a matter of creating tension in the audience and then releasing it at the perfect moment. From his comedian days, Peele learned how to manipulate this release of tension, applying it just when the suspense becomes unbearable.
Contrast of Visuals and Sound
A more subtle decision that permeates Peele’s filmography is the idea that visuals deceive, whereas sound or aural information contains the truth. A clever trick, it makes for excellent plot twists and forces audiences to look twice, so to speak. The (spoiler alert!) doppelgängers in Us and the teaspoon clinking in Get Out are perfect illustrations.
Beyond that, it can act as a form of social commentary too. Harmful biases and judgments almost always come from visual determinations, and Peele’s horror films point out the fallacy at the root of this. Even with such understated devices, he sends a strong message: looks can — and are — deceiving.
Jordan Peele’s Creative Process
New Jordan Peele movies seem to come out every few years or so, yet writer’s block is one of the biggest struggles that artists face. How does Peele overcome this? His first step when looking for inspiration, he says, is to listen to himself and his emotions. He assesses what makes him scared and uses that as a jumping-off point.
In that same vein, he sees autobiographical elements as an irreplaceable part of his brainstorming. He looks to bare his soul in some way — in fact, the key storyline in Us was inspired by his time growing up in New York City and staring at his own reflection while riding the subway. Peele’s own movie tastes come into it too: one of his mantras is to write his favourite film that he hasn’t seen yet.
With the initial conception spelled out, the tricky part is developing it into a full-fledged film. For Peele, he spends the bulk of his time planning the plot — Get Out’s plot took 4-5 years of planning. He then writes the actual screenplay in a matter of short months. He sometimes works out multiple endings and then eventually choosing one.
As he’s picking and choosing, cutting and rewriting, he likes to have a “democratic” approach to art. In other words, he diligently considers audience appeal and whether his work is accessible to all. Stemming from his improv days, Peele has spoken about how he values getting to “everybody in the room” — while making sure to balance this with his own artistry.
With so many overdone horror tropes, creativity is a rare find in the genre. One of the crucial ways Peele figures out how to work in brand new ideas is not making them brand new. He sees the future of horror in the past, closely studying classics like The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby.
After getting to know the gambits of these classic horror movies , he employs them as the base, using them in a modern way For instance, Us takes after the historical horror element of shadow selves and the Other. In his Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022), he’s also incorporating early cinema, such as the iconic “Galloping Horse” shown in the trailer.
Jordan Peele’s Impact on Horror
What do recent horror hits like Fresh, The Black Phone, and Ma have in common? In one way or another, these films exhibit elements introduced into the horror genre by Jordan Peele. His impact on the genre has been massive despite his five short years as a horror director. We cannot wait to see what Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022) will add to the horror industry. Here are some of the indelible marks Peele has left on the industry:
Commentary on the Black Experience
The biggest differentiator when it comes to Jordan Peele movies is the one prominent aspect that he always slips into his reinvented horror devices.
Peele seeks to reimagine horror tropes from the perspective of a Black man in America, the most noteworthy being the white saviour trope. Commentary on the Black experience can be found in all his work, contained within countless concepts. Some significant examples include Us depicting the fear of the outsider and Get Out digging into white liberal racism.
Horror as Social Allegory
A commonly held notion is that studio and indie films simply cannot cross over. Peele’s work does what was previously considered impossible: the seamless melding of these two worlds. His redefinition of horror began with what he calls a “social thriller”, a genre film that pleases crowds while also taking a no-holds-barred look at hard-hitting issues of racism, classism, and political divisiveness.
While horror is well-known as a subconscious reflection of society’s fears, Peele brings the collective consciousness to the forefront. His films bring to light discussions around whose fears get reflected in horror and the real systems that create fear.
Emphasis on Realism
It used to be that the wildly supernatural and unbelievable were the popular go-to in the realm of horror. Filmmakers seemed to think that the crazier they could make it, the more it would shock and scare audiences. Peele turned this entirely on its head.
Instead, his films are rooted deeply in reality, sometimes even staying faithful to a certain era and location. Peele’s philosophy is, the more real something is, the more it’ll scare. So rather than feeling far-fetched, audiences connect more closely with the world he’s built. This means when the tables turn, it hits close to home, creating realistic fear.
Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022) – What We Know
The big talk of this summer is the upcoming horror film Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022). Not much is known about it yet, but Peele promises one of the biggest and most ambitious spectacles yet. Jordan Peele’s Nope takes place on an idyllic ranch and focuses on a sibling relationship as the duo comes into contact with an ominous force. The film will undoubtedly shed insightful light on the social issues Peele plans to explore further. Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022) looking to be another unforgettable entry in his horror filmography.