The Sunday Scaries are upon us once again! Yes, as the weekend concludes, most of us feel an oncoming sense of anticipatory dread about the week ahead. Anxiety about work manifests itself into a feeling that’s known as the Sunday Scaries. However, we at Awards Radar are here to combat that, by taking back the name. Now, we want you think about a horror-centric piece on the site when you hear the term. So, let us continue on with another installment of the Awards Radar Sunday Scaries! This time around, we’re looking at a filmmaker who’s operating in the horror genre like no one else…
Last week in the column (here), I prepped you all for Jordan Peele‘s Nope. In part, I mentioned how Get Out and Us were so wildly different, so to expect anything else from Nope would have been utterly foolish. Well, that’s certainly been proven true. At this point, you should should go into a Peele film planning to be taken in a whole new direction. Even if the movies are at least partly within the horror genre, they’re always doing something different. That’s a special currency in this industry.
This here is some of what I said about Nope and Peele himself in my review:
Three films in, Jordan Peele has established himself as an event storyteller. Get Out shocked the cinematic world, winning him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in the process (not to mention Oscar nominations in Best Director and Best Picture, to boot). Us didn’t have the same awards cache, but cemented him as a “social horror” master and a filmmaker you pay close attention to. Now with Nope, Peele has managed to up the ante. The movie is bigger and in some ways bolder than anything he’s done before, even if there are missteps along the way. The film has an element of Steven Spielberg-esque spectacle to it, which is a new playground Peele’s chosen to frolic in. Regardless of if you like, love, or even find Nope to be a misfire, it’s impossible not to consider this director at the forefront of Hollywood storytelling. No one does metaphors like him.
Nope has a lot of the hallmarks you expect from Peele, with added ambition and spectacle this time around. Not all of it works, but when it does, it has moments that mesmerize. He knows how to craft cinema with a capital C, and it shows. The fact that this mix of science fiction and horror, with ample laughs thrown in, even has room for an element of filmmaking to be a part of the narrative shows that he doesn’t lack for drive. Even when parts of the flick don’t stand tall, others are right there to shoulder the load.
Filmmaker Jordan Peele goes for spectacle here more than he has previously, with mostly successful results, even if he doesn’t skimp on the metaphors and symbolism. His handling of the various set-pieces verges on flawless, while the comedy almost always lands, as does the horror elements. His directing is as confident as ever, trusting the audience to keep up with the story. With terrific sound design, a reverberating score from Michael Abels, and top notch cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema, it’s a technical wonder. His writing, however, potentially bites off a bit more than he can chew here, sacrificing some needed character work, even if there’s an interesting meta undercurrent running through the picture. Nope throws a lot at you, leaving a fair amount open to interpretation, but at some point, it moves perilously close to overload. The post-screening debates will be fascinating, but a bit more on the table for the audience to engage with on first viewing would have been nice. This is closer to Us than Get Out, at least in that regard. It might not bug you in the slightest, but I felt like it was an element here that, unlike in his prior work, wasn’t a strength, if not quite an outright weakness.
Peele’s prior two works, Get Out and Us, made major impacts and started long-running discourses. The former even garnered Academy Award attention, making him an Oscar winner in the process. That’s given him the clout of an A-list auteur, which is well earned, but don’t forget, Peele is also making genre works. His movies could easily get dismissed as just horror, but they don’t, and that’s truly notable. In some ways, he’s broken at least part of the glass ceiling for genre/horror storytellers.
What makes Peele so special is that he displays an equal amount of big ideas and confidence. It’s not enough to layer your films with social commentary and deeper meanings. You have to do it in a way that works. Not only does Peele pull that off largely well (give or take some of Nope), he never forgets to make his flicks wildly entertaining. They may be funny, scary, thrilling, frustrating, but they’re always also a massive amount of fun.
If Nope continues like Peele’s prior works have, not only will there be awards season attention for a genre offering, there also will be lots of conversations about its meanings to be had. You’ll even hear some of that chatter on the next episode of the Awards Radar Podcast, this Thursday. It’ll likely continue all year long, in the micro, and throughout his career, in the macro. Peele’s just somebody who excites the masses, which is more than worth celebrating.
In short, Jordan Peele is a singular talent. The fact that he’s chosen the horror genre to largely play within is just a nice little bonus, but it’s certainly a bonus for fans of fright flicks. Here’s hoping that he keeps doing what he’s doing. As mentioned above, no one else is really even coming close to this sort of a thing. We’re lucky to have him, plain and simple.
Stay tuned for another Sunday Scaries installment next week!