It’s hard to deny the similarities between their work. Could Jordan Peele take the horror suspense crown from M Night Shyamalan?
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The nineties were a harsh decade for horror movies. The copious amounts of gore seen in the eighties had already dried out most of the interest in the slasher genre, leading to films like Scream poking fun at the genre that once made entire audiences tremble in fear. Unfortunately for horror fans, the quality of horror films of the decade was one of the worst the industry had seen in years.
Fortunately, this all changed at the end of the decade, when M Night Shyamalan released what many fans still consider his magnum opus, The Sixth Sense. This film took a different approach to the horror genre, giving it an air of humanity and character drama that was rarely ever seen in any of its peers. This, along with Shyamalan’s trademark storytelling techniques, turned the filmmaker into one of the most respected directors of the early 2000s.
Now, the horror genre is going through a similar metamorphosis, with filmmakers like Ari Aster redefining the nature of the things that bump in the night. However, if there’s one director and auteur that’s quickly been going up the ranks in terms of quality horror filmmaking, that would be Jordan Peele. Considering the nature of his work so far, it would be easy to see why some people are already calling him the new M Night Shyamalan – with all the ups and downs that the moniker implies.
Peele comes from one of the unlikeliest backgrounds we could ever imagine for a horror director. His past working as a comedian does shine through the cracks of his latter horror filmmaking, but he manages to balance things in such a satisfying way, that you would hardly remember that this is the same guy who worked on all of those Key & Peele sketches.
While M Night Shyamalan has always exhibited a fascination with psychology and the mental state of his characters, Jordan Peele takes things one step further, by bringing these psychological issues and mixing them with the racial background of his characters.
Most filmmakers that use race as a central theme of their movies rarely go to the psychological ramifications of racism, considering it taboo or even politically incorrect. Horror, however, tends to be one of the few genres that can really explore these issues without getting too preachy – which is why Peele does a great job at exposing the darkest sides of humanity.
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Of course, when we compare a filmmaker with M. Night Shyamalan, there’s always the issue that many critics have with Shyamalan’s work: the trademark twists and story beats that, more often than not, turn his films into clichés or even parodies of themselves.
Even though Get Out and Us shared some very similar core concepts, Peele has shown us that he can stray away from the conventions that he has established as pivotal elements of his work. Nope acts as the perfect example of the things that differentiate Jordan Peele from M Night Shyamalan, both in style and approach to filmmaking, and why Peele might be the new face of horror for years to come.
If Nope taught us anything about Jordan Peele’s work is that he is not married to his particular “style” of making films. While Get Out was one of the best thrillers in recent memory, Nope feels like a horror/adventure film that would have been released a few years after Jaws.
When The Sixth Sense was released, some critics touted Shyamalan as “the next Spielberg.” While that might have been true for a while, it seems like Jordan Peele might be poised to do for horror what Steven Spielberg did for cinema in general – that is, making us all fall in love with the genre once again.
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What do you think, is Jordan Peele the new M Night Shyamalan?