Jordan Peele with Oscar statuette

Jordan Peele’s win for the Best Original Screenplay for GET OUT marks a watershed moment in Oscar history

The 90th Academy Awards presented us with a number of unique moments and memorable acceptance speeches, but the biggest cheer came when Jordan Peele’s name was announced as the winner for the break-out mystery horror.

GET OUT tells the story of photographer, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young African-American who visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches boiling point. A Blumhouse Production – a company credited with revitalising the horror movie, with hits like Parnormal Activity, Insidious and The Purge to their name – GET OUT’s powerful story revolves around racism, but the hidden racism within polite, outwardly liberal white society, and tackles the issue of modern-day slavery.

Garnering nominations in four of the big Oscar categories – Best Picture, Best Director for Peele and Best Lead Actor for Daniel Kaluuya – Peele’s win for Best Original Screenplay is a first for an African American in that category.

Jordan Peele’s heartfelt speech spoke of his passion for the script and his initial fears of writing it.

He said:

This means so much to me. I stopped writing this movie 20 times because I thought it was impossible… I though no one would ever make this movie but I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie that people would hear it and say it”

After thanking the cast and crew, and his wife for her support throughout the whole process, Jordan Peele gave his thanks to:

“My mother,  who taught me to love,  even in the face of hate”

The Art of the Social Thriller

Peele laid bare his eclectic influences for the film when he curated The Brooklyn Academy of Music Film Series ‘The Art of the Social Thriller’ in early 2017.   The series comprised Rosemary’s Baby, Night of the Living Dead, The Shining, The People Under the Stairs, Scream, The Silence of the Lambs, Misery, Rear Window, The ‘Burbs and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Daniel Kaluuya in GET OUT (2017) (dir. Jordan Peele)

Horror tends not to fare well at the Oscars. However, for Peele it was the perfect vehicle for the tale he wanted to tell. The film creates a growing sense of fear and danger in a man’s daily life. It’s dealing with all-too-real social nightmares hits a nerve, eliciting powerful reactions from audiences and critics alike.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the horror scale, Guillermo Del Toro’s sumptuous fantasy creature feature THE SHAPE OF WATER took the awards for Best Picture and Best Director. Del Toro says his film is about the ‘the beauty of the other’. It also addresses issues of racism, sexism and xenophobia.

The theme for the 90th Academy Awards was ‘inclusion’; if anything, the stylistically opposed GET OUT and THE SHAPE OF WATER are ushering in a new acceptance of horror.  There’s now greater understanding that the very play on the emotions that they have long been derided for are, in fact, effective tools in driving home the horrors of  important social issues, in a non-didactic manner, to a far wider audience.

Nick Zabierek

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