Catching Up On Horror: Jordan Peele & The Thing(s)

Hey there, I hope you’re doing well! In terms of films, I’ve been watching quite the mix of old and new in various genres. Something I’ve only recently dived into more has been horror. For a long time I’ve been turned off by it (I’m not a big fan of body horror and gore in particular), but I’ve eased more into the genre as of late.

The horror flicks that employ a more thriller-y, psychological horror are those I gravitate towards; I am a big fan of the A Quiet Place movies, and recently Nope was another fantastic example of that. Speaking of which, after enjoying Nope so much, I finally decided to go back and watch the previous two horror films Jordan Peele directed – namely, the critically-acclaimed Get Out and Us.

In addition, I ticked the two The Thing movies off my to-watch list, and had a brilliantly scary time doing it! So, I’ve grouped together my reviews for these four horror films below for your perusal. If you have any horror recommendations, feel free to let me know!


Get Out

After watching Nope (and loving it), I’ve *finally* gotten around to watching previous Jordan Peele films. Wowzas, does Get Out live up to the critical acclaim!

I had a vague idea of the main plot conceit, but wasn’t sure about how gory/scary Get Out was going to be; it turns out most of this is masterfully tortuous psychological horror. The audio design alone is terrifyingly powerful.

The setup is that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is going with his girlfriend Rose to visit her family, and this will be the first time they’ve met him. Rose warns him that her family have outdated, racist views, and so it proves as their passive aggressive remarks quickly escalate and eventually reveal a twisted endgame. The underlying commentary on racism and discrimination is accentuated by the horror lens and comes together spectacularly.

Kaluuya is exceptional, portraying the gradual realisation of the trap being laid around him layer by horrifying layer. I liked how things weren’t just happening to him – he was seeking answers and solutions the whole time. The flipside of that is how the final act, and the solutions to certain plot threads, seemed to get resolved quickly one after the other. This film builds up so well that I’d have liked the resolutions to have been expanded on a little more.

Get Out is a puzzle box of a film that I’m sure would be fascinating upon a rewatch (as would Us and Nope). There’s so much to analyse, from the placement of characters to the use of animal imagery. Get Out is a modern classic – not just in the horror genre, but any genre.

9/10

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Us

So, after watching Nope and Get Out, in that order, I come to Us. All of Jordan Peele’s films have a brilliant subtextual nature to them, and Us is the prime example of that – there’s so much to stew on afterwards, and I imagine the film becomes a brilliantly different proposition upon a rewatch.

The focus is on the Wilson family, in particularly mother Adelaide, as apparent duplicates of themselves invade their home to terrifying effect. The work that went into the different mannerisms, features, and sounds of the “tethered” doppelgängers is so effective, and a lot of praise should go to the cast, in particular Lupita Nyong’o, for the dual performances they display here.

On the face of it, this is another body-snatcher horror film, but the framing of the characters and the setting make it into so much more. I was surprised at the scope and scale of this film, and it’s smart from Peele to expand beyond one location (likely a conscious choice after Get Out). There’s an effort here to make the brighter scenes just as scary as the darker ones, which is something we again see in Nope. In terms of creating indelible imagery I think Us is successful at this, but I think there isn’t much here that’s horrific in a physical sense (maybe I’m just desensitised).

My main kicks came from the gradual reveal of both the origin and motivation of the tethered; the undercurrents and themes here are so intriguing to dive into. It’s pieced together for the audience in compelling fashion, with the final confrontation staged in a way I’ve never quite seen before.

The level to which you enjoy Us will come from how much you need a movie to explain itself. Whilst it definitely has enough of the action and horror beats to keep you entertained in the moment, it’s the mysteries and deeper connotations that raise it above your standard horror fare, and have subsequently lingered in my mind. Honestly, I adore the way it challenges the audience.

Y’know, perhaps the best trick of Us is making you think you can see the answer coming, but then you realise the question itself was wrong…

8.5/10

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

The Thing (1982)

Despite all the glorious practical effects and on-point acting in The Thing, it’s actually a lot of what isn’t said that hits the hardest. I adore both the start and the ending for how they are left up to interpretation (with an extra dynamic to it after watching the 2011 prequel).

All the stuff in between is pretty good too, of course!! When an alien that lives in the bodies of others infiltrates a cut-off Antarctic station, it quickly becomes every man for themselves, with everyone becoming a suspect. The sense of paranoia and mistrust is thick in the air, with Kurt Russell our main source of relief and guidance as the audience. Like Arnie in Predator, Kurt feels like a prime candidate for survival, and I do think the film makes that fact too clear too early.

On the other hand, the pace at which the alien attacks the base and the other people within it isn’t too fast, nor too slow, and this keeps the film engaging throughout. Of course, the practical effects are astonishing. The abominations that become of the hosts the alien chooses are horrifying in an uncanny, body-horror way, and seeing them as actual models that rip, stretch, and contort is as impressive as it is gut-wrenching.

With those practical effects, plus a strong story, setting, and cast, The Thing holds up remarkably well now for a genre film. It’s influence is clear to see since, too – just think of any number of stories about a group being trapped against an unknown alien entity… 

Also, I have to mention the phenomenal dog acting in this. Bravo!

8/10

Rating: 8 out of 10.

The Thing (2011)

I watched this immediately after watching the original for the first time, and honestly, the only thing that stopped me preferring it is the amount of CGI used compared to the original. One of the main selling points of the 1982 film is the practical effects, but whilst there’s some effort to employ that here, the alien “Thing” is mainly a CGI creation in the style of a Resident Evil boss. It’s still threatening and able to perform horrific acts, but there is a disconnect whenever it’s fully revealed.

OK so with that out of the way… I really liked a lot of this! Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd is a brilliant choice, not just to break up the testosterone but because, well, MEW is awesome in pretty much everything (go watch All About Nina, by the way). So she continues to be here, just the right mix of vulnerable and determined in order to keep you gripped to her journey. Other cast members such as Joel Edgerton are solid too at building out the new roster of characters for the Thing to target… 

This is a prequel, not a remake, and I was fascinated to see how the second, burnt-down Antarctic base discovered in the 1982 original became that way. There’s something so sickeningly compelling about knowing it’s all going to go wrong before it does; and, indeed, the alien parasite has the effect of slowly making this group turn on themselves. The dots join together well (if a bit too fast around the two-thirds mark) and expand on the lore without going too over-the-top. We still never get a full understanding of the Thing, and that’s a show of intelligent restraint.

Speaking of joining the dots, though, the end credit sequence that leads into the original is excellently done, and throws up the intriguing point of how the order you watch these two films affects them. After the prequel, the disastrous start of the 1982 film is so much more of a gut-punch… 

Closing notes: Mary Elizabeth Winstead with -insert weapon here- is iconic filmmaking. If you’ve seen the film, you should know what I mean.

7.5/10

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

I didn’t actually plan for those review scores to decrease in increments of 0.5, it just kinda happened… I liked all of these movies though, and it’s been refreshing to open myself up more to the horror genre. Or, y’know, it will be, until I inevitably find a horror film that scars me forever…

ANYWAY… Have an amazing day!

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