By Casey Lewis
On March 22, horror movie fanatics began flocking to theaters to see the highly-anticipated film,“Us,” directed by Jordan Peele. After Peele’s wildly successful debut of “Get Out” in 2017, he’s proven to have what it takes to succeed in the industry.
Peele has quickly become a household name, which is often a rarity in the modern horror genre. Even James Wan, who has directed some of the most famous horror movies of the 2000s, has not reached his level of popularity. So, what has set Peele apart from others in the industry so early on in his career? The answer is simple –– he has found his successby breaking the mold of modern horror films.
Typical modern horror movies usually play out in predictable ways –– plots are often simplistic, the cast lacks diversity and gore and jump scares are favored over well-built suspense. Studios continue to produce these predictable and monotonous movies for one main purpose — to make money. Despite poor reviews of these standard horror movies, they still make large profits in the box of-fice. Since they are cheap to make (2014’s “Ouija” only had a bud- get of $5 million, according to Box Office Mojo), they are typically money-making machines for studios.
For example, 2014’s “Ouija,” based on the Ouija game, scored an abysmal six percent on RottenTomatoes but earned over $100 million at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo. More recently, “The Nun,” a spin-off of “The Conjuring,” earned over $350 million, according to Box Office Mojo, despite only scoring 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. These two movies made money solely because they were based on concepts familiar to the audience. Meanwhile, “Hereditary,” a horror movie widely considered the best of 2018 with a score of 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, only managed to bring in about $80 million, according to Box Office Mojo. This is not a bad number, considering the movie had a low budget of $10 million, according to Box Office Mojo, but it is still considerably less than two low-rated movies that were sold off of their titles alone.
On the contrary, Peele thrives by doing everything differently. From his casting, to his themes and style of horror, he is challenging the modern methods of horror movies. His first two movies have cast black leads, giving new opportunities to an under represented group in the horror genre.
This allows more audience members to relate to these movies, as it opens the genre to a larger demographic. Peele also isn’t afraid to introduce complex themes and plots to his films, that stem from some level of our contemporary reality. “Get Out” addressed racial issues in America, while “Us” explores the duality of the American people. Both movies incorporated societal themes with bold and borderline sci-fi plots that were incredibly developed. Peele has mastered the art of creating real horror rather than relying on the predicted jump scares.
Peele’s film are not only different, but they have proven to be successful, too. His debut film,“Get Out,” has a phenomenal 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes while “Us” scored a 95 percent. Peele is also succeeding in the box office. According to Box Office Mojo,“Get Out” pulled in over $250 million and “Us” broke box office records with its $70 million opening weekend.
Peele has expanded the targeted demographics for horror movies and proved he can make a quality horror movie that breaks away from the standard mold. Peele’s success will most certainly pave the way for a more advanced and sophisticated future for horror movies.
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