Posts Tagged ‘Jordan Peele’

Last week in my review of Us, I speculated Jordan Peele’s new horror movie was making a Friday the 13th reference through one of its characters. It’s been nearly a week since then, the film has made nearly six times its budget back at the box office since its release, and people are still finding reasons to talk about this film. So I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring and further explain my own theory about the film, or to be more specific my theory regarding one specific character.

That being said, I’m going to be going in-depth with this film, so if you haven’t seen Us yet, THIS IS YOUR SPOILER WARNING! STOP HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET AD GO SEE IT BEFORE CONTINUING!!

Still here? Good. Let’s begin.

My theory is that the character of Jason Wilson, the son character in the film’s protagonist family, is one big, possibly unintended, reference to the Friday the 13th films and their main antagonist, Jason Voorhees. Let me explain:

1. The character’s name is Jason, and he wears a mask throughout the film. These are small details, but they’re what turned me onto this. Jason Wilson wears a Chewbacca mask throughout the film, something never really explained beyond a statement by his sister Zora that he’s socially awkward. In the Friday the 13th films, Jason is famous for wearing a mask, most notably the iconic hockey mask. Additionally, both Jasons have two-syllable surnames, with the first letters of each surname right next to each other in the English alphabet.

Both Jason Wilson and Jason Voorhees wear masks and are named Jason. Is that a coincidence?

Okay, but that’s just a tiny detail. Is there anything else to back it up? Why yes, of course.

2. Their lives are forever changed around water. This is another small detail, but it’s also important. Jason Voorhees “drowned” in Crystal Lake, and afterwards hunted and killed around that lake. It was a turning point in his life, so to speak. In Us, Jason Wilson first meets the Tethered version of his family at his family’s vacation home, which is right on a lake. Later, his family travels to the Santa Cruz beach, where Jason kills his Tethered and is kidnapped by his mother’s double. Both of these events have a profound effect on Jason, psychologically scarring him, and will probably affect his life growing up. Just like Jason Voorhees when he drowned and when his mother was killed.

3. He and his Tethered. Both Jason and his Tethered, Pluto, share aspects of Jason Voorhees’s appearance and personality. Pluto is physically scarred, which is why he wears his mask. Jason W. is socially awkward, which may play into why he wears his mask. In the Friday the 13th films, Jason Voorhees is said to have been born with a condition that deformed his face, and made his interactions with other children difficult to say the least. You can make a connection between his physical and social problems to Jason W’s social issues and Pluto’s physical appearance.

And speaking of Pluto…

4. Pluto’s name. Pluto is the Roman god of the Underworld, and is one of the few beings who can come and go from that realm at will. Pluto from Us comes from an Underworld of his own. And even before Jason V became a supernatural being who could resurrect himself every few years, his relationship to death was tenuous at best, having died or appeared to have died twice before Tommy Jarvis actually gave him what appeared to be a permanent death in the fourth Friday the 13th film.

Speaking of Tommy…

5. How the killer dies. In Friday the 13th Part IV, young Tommy Jarvis shaves his head to make himself appear like Jason V as a boy, allowing him to eventually strike a fatal blow to Jason V. In Us, Jason W uses his connection to Pluto to compel his doppelganger to walk into a burning car, killing him.

6. The mothers. This is the detail that really made me think I had something with this theory. Both Adelaide Wilson and her Tethered Red are especially close with their sons, as we see through their interactions with them. This connection is so deep that, after Pluto is killed, Red takes Jason W into her underworld instead of killing him in revenge. It’s as if she couldn’t bear to lose her son and would accept his above-world counterpart rather than lose him entirely. Adelaide then follows Red into the tunnels to fight her, kill her, and take back her son, who is scarred forever from this event.

In addition, both women are not what they seem. “Adelaide” is revealed to have originally been a Tethered, and “Red” was from the surface world, motivated by revenge to destroy the above world she was taken from. When we first meet Pamela Voorhees in the original Friday the 13th film, we believe she’s an eleventh-hour Samaritan to the surviving counselor, only to be revealed as a crazed killer seeking revenge for her son–her world–who was taken from her.

At the end of Us, Jason W seems to know his mother is a Tethered, and his reactions seem to indicate he’s going to be watching her from now on, even though he loves her. And in the second Friday the 13th film, Jason V is revealed to be alive, having become an adult and starting his own reign of murder and terror. Which begs the question, if he was alive all these years, why didn’t he find his mother? Why didn’t he let her know he was alive? Perhaps did he know his mother was unhinged and decided to stay away from her because he couldn’t trust her?

Tell me Mr. Peele, did I stumble onto something?

 

Ultimately, this may just be me looking too deeply into one aspect of a film and drawing an entire theory from it. I’ve been known to do that before.* And I may be shouting into the wind with this blog post. But even if I’m totally off-base and making connections that weren’t meant to be there, it’s amazing how much is there to back up my crazy theory. And there’s a theory that the anime movie My Neighbor Totoro is a secret retelling of a murder-suicide in the 1960s. It got popular enough that Studio Ghibli came out and denied the theory.** Perhaps I can get enough people to believe in this theory to get a response from Jordan Peele. Anything’s possible.

But what do you think? Think I’m onto something? Am I crazy? Did I miss something that supports or tears down my theory? Let’s discuss.

And while you’re here, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my novel Rose. It’s the story of a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you would like to get an advanced electronic copy, please send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is that you consider posting a review with your thoughts on or after the release date. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

*I kid you not, I once saw a ballet based on the Oz books, and came up with a whole time travel theory based on its ending scene. My mother said I was crazy. I say it’s the only way outside of a dream sequence the ballet makes sense, and this ballet didn’t treat Oz as a dreamland.

**No kidding, that’s a thing. Here’s an article that looks into the theory. And Studio Ghibli did have to come out and say it’s bogus. Which is only slightly weirder than the theory about Spirited Away that Ghibli did confirm was legit. The more you know.

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I wasn’t able to catch Get Out when it was in theaters, and by the time I watched it on DVD, so much time had passed I didn’t feel like writing a post with my thought. To sum up said thoughts, I thought it was a creepy, atmospheric film that openly explored racial attitudes among Americans, though I felt the main character was less a fully realized character and more of a vehicle for the audience to experience the movie through. So when I heard about Us, I was very intrigued. And then I saw that first trailer. And I knew I had to see what Jordan Peele had cooked up this time. Today, my sister and I went for an early showing, eager to see what people were talking about.

To say the least, the film was surreal. Like Peele was channeling Stephen King when he was writing The Dark Half and created a visual twist on the concept. And it works for the most part.

Us follows Adelaide, played by Lupita Nyong’o, a mother and former ballerina who goes up with her husband Gabe, daughter Zora and son Jason to a vacation home that Adelaide stayed at as a kid in 1986, when she experienced a traumatic episode. That night though, they’re attacked by the Tethered, twisted, animalistic doppelgangers of themselves that seek to murder Adelaide and her family. Thus begins a trial for the family to not only survive, but to find out why this is happening to them.

From the get-go, this is a strange and eerie film. It combines storytelling with atmosphere, music (seriously, the part music plays in this film cannot be underestimated), and action in order to create an intense experience. At some points we were so on edge, a woman sneezing a couple rows behind us caused twenty people to jump out of their seats! And that includes me and my sister.

And the amount of symbolism in this film can’t be understated. A lot of details go into this film that are meant to make you examine the imagery and ideas being presented. From actual twins, symmetry and patterns in objects and pictures, the Bible phrase Jeremiah 11:11, rabbits,* and so much more. All to get you thinking on these themes of identity, duality, being an American, socioeconomics, creative expression, and so much more. I won’t go into what it all means–I’m sure there are bloggers and YouTubers who will do a better job of that than I could–but it will leave you thinking for hours after you leave the theater.

I will take a moment just to say that I think the son character is one big reference to the Friday the 13th franchise. This is mainly because his name is Jason and he wears a mask throughout a good portion of the film for some reason, but there’s plenty in the film I could point to that backs that assertion up. I won’t because I don’t want to spoil anything.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it was the humor in film. Not that it was terrible, but after the main plot of the film kicks into gear, I found how much of it there was, most of it coming from family patriarch Gabe (played with plenty of love by Nyong’o’s Black Panther costar Winston Duke) distracting. Like, there’s this one scene where the family is discussing what to do in light of what they’ve experienced, and they make a series of Home Alone jokes! Takes you right out of the tense, creepy mood.

Then again, this is from Jordan Peele, who’s still primarily known as a comedian. Humor should be expected. But at a certain point, I just would like it if was toned down a bit. That may just be my quirk, but it’s how I feel.

All in all though, Us is a true success for Peele. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.6.  Unsettling, trippy, and memorable, Us will stay with you for hours after you see it. I have no doubt that with time, it’ll be seen as one of the best horror films of 2019, and maybe the first great one of 2019 as well. Take a breath, jump in, and see the madness yourself.

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for eARC readers for my novel Rose, about a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you would like to get an advanced copy, all you have to do is send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I only ask that you consider leaving a review on or after the release date. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!

*Fun fact: rabbits are capable of a much wider range of beneficial mutations when they reproduce that cousins or even siblings can mate with each other and still produce a healthy and genetically diverse brood. Take that how you will, but I have thoughts on how that plays into the film.

Halloween (2018) poster

This past weekend, the new Halloween movie was released and eager horror fans, including myself, flocked to theaters to see it (see my review of the film here). At the time I’m writing this, the film has made over 103 million bucks, nearly seven times it’s original budget. This definitely counts as a financial success for the film and its producers, and it’s all but certain at this point that a sequel will be greenlit. This has many horror fans speculating on a particular question: is the slasher genre coming back, bigger and badder than ever?

Now in case you stumbled on this post by accident and have no idea what a slasher is, let me explain: slasher, also occasionally known as splatterpunk, is a sub-genre of horror that focuses on violent deaths and gore, as well as the prospect of those occurring, as the source of its terror and tension. Slashers were really big in the 1980s, but declined as the many sequels kept going for more ridiculous kills and even more ridiculous plots. There were some brief flare-ups of good slashers in the late 90s and early 2000s, with films like Scream, Urban Legend and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and remakes of franchises like 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Rob Zombie’s Halloween, but for the most part it didn’t stick. Recently, slashers have done well in television format with shows like Slasher and Scream (yes, based on the film I mentioned a sentence ago), but Halloween‘s the first in years that’s managed to satisfy this many fans, critics, and bank accounts.

Hollywood can be a very reactive sort of place: anything that’s proven to be even slightly successful will be copied over and over again by movie studios until long after audiences have lost interest. So with Halloween doing so well and sequels definitely being discussed in boardrooms, can we expect more slasher reboots and remakes on the horizon? Which ones? And is this the first of a slasher renaissance similar to their first wave of popularity in the 1980s?

Well, there are actually a few slasher movies being developed right now based on the older franchises. Child’s Play, which first introduced the character of living doll Chucky, is getting both a reboot and a TV series, and A Nightmare on Elm Street has had a new remake in development for a while now. But with the success of Halloween, there’s a chance the studios producing them will give them more attention and funding than they might’ve had without Halloween.

Please bring back Friday the 13th! Jason and I both want to see a comeback for the franchise!

And I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say other series will be getting new films. There has been talk for years of rebooting Friday the 13th with my boy Jason Voorhees. Recently a court case regarding the original film was resolved, and basketball player-turned-actor and producer Lebron James, who is as big of a fan of the franchise as I am, has come forward saying he would like to help produce the film. And while Lebron’s still new to Hollywood, I would welcome his involvement in a new Friday the 13th film. Sometimes it takes the perspective of a fan, especially one who has more power than expressing outrage through a keyboard, to truly give a character or franchise new life.*

And after the crappy 2009 remake, almost anything would be welcome. Seriously, what was with that film? It felt like the filmmakers were making porn, then making a raunchy comedy, and then remembered to put Jason in it! By the time the final third rolled around, I was bored! I’m seriously considering destroying a copy of the film on DVD when its tenth anniversary rolls around, it’s that bad!

But not just Friday the 13th: there’s room for other franchises to get new films. I think a Hellraiser reboot would be great, as the series has devolved into cheap, direct-to-DVD sequels. A proper remake would give the series’ concept the fresh rebirth it needs. Of course, I’d love to see some new Freddy Kreuger, as there’s still so much to do with that character. And I think given our current social/political climate, a director like Jordan Peele could do something great with the character of Candyman.

But there should also be original works, not just remakes and reboots. As you’re reading this, there are plenty of filmmakers out there with fresh ideas for the slasher genre that should be given a chance. Perhaps with the success of Halloween, studios will be willing to give them a chance. Heck, maybe Jason Blum and Blumhouse, one of the companies that produced Halloween, can use this to recruit some female directors to develop some new projects.**

Perhaps we can see all these dudes, and then some, get new films.

And as for if this is the beginning of a slasher renaissance, we’ll just have to wait and see. One film doesn’t indicate a genre’s comeback. Sometimes several films don’t mean a particular genre or sub-genre is going to be the next big thing (*cough* YA dystopia and fantasy films *cough*). It’ll take several successful films, both originals as well as remakes and reboots, before we can really say if the slasher genre is back with a vengeance.

Still, I’m hopeful. I didn’t think until the trailer that anyone could bring Halloween back. Perhaps with the right writers and directors, we could see the return of the genre. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Until then though, we’ll just have to content ourselves with Halloween, the old classics, and this awesome little video (sorry, couldn’t help but post it. Enjoy).

*And if you do end up producing a new Friday the 13th film Mr. James, can I help? I love Jason too, and I’d love to see him given a film worthy of his franchise. Perhaps I can help write the script? I have ideas.

**Sorry Mr. Blum. I love your work, and I even sent a resume to your company after I graduated, but you really put your foot in your mouth with that “lack of female directors” comment. I mean really? One article found 30 female directors who can do horror! Perhaps Halloween‘s success means a chance to start fixing that fiasco and bringing them on board.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how Hollywood is coming to see big horror films are, and that they are looking into making more. It’s even been compared to the explosion of superhero films that came about after the Dark Knight trilogy and Iron Man showed how popular and profitable superhero films could be. Since I am a horror fan in addition to a horror writer, I thought I’d weigh in on the subject.

First off, this explosion in horror is not exactly out of the blue. Studios have been making horror films since the early days of film, and they keep making them every year. There’s obviously always been an interest and a profit to be made in horror. It’s just lately we’ve had a slew of horror films that have shown studios and audiences that horror can be extremely profitable, mainstream, and even deeply thematic. We actually first started seeing this trend years ago with films like the Paranormal Activity series, which kicked off a huge fad of found-footage horror films, and with Blumhouse Productions, which proved you can make horror films cheaply and still have critical and box office success. This is especially so with their Conjuring film series, which in itself is a cinematic universe.

But late 2016 and 2017 brought on a slew of horror films that really brought these points home. Split, with its surprise ending technically making it a superhero film, and Get Out, with its commentary on race on par with some Oscar-nominated films, brought horror into the mainstream in new ways. Later in 2017, Annabelle: Creation and It proved massively successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and in 2018, films like A Quiet Place are raking in the dough and proving how powerful horror can be in creating terrifying atmospheres and emotional narratives.

And this is just scratching the surface: Stephen King stories are being optioned at record rates (where’s my adaptation of The Library Policeman?); some of Netflix’s biggest recent original films have been horror movies; and studios are developing more horror movies than ever before. It: Chapter Two starts filming this summer, and a new Halloween film is getting released this year. So while I may say yes, horror is kind of the new superhero film, it’s not because they suddenly became profitable. The potential has always been there, it just took some very specific successes with deeper cultural resonance to really bring that potential to the attention of studio heads.

Remember, don’t do what The Mummy did. Not if you want your horror movie to actually be successful, let alone spawn a franchise.

So yes, the horror genre may be the new superhero film, with every studio wanting its own successful films, film series, or film universe. But to steal a superhero film quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So while I have no pretensions that studio heads or directors or writers or whatever will see this post, let alone take its message to heart, I thought I’d offer some advice advice on getting into this horror boom. After all, as a horror fan and a creator, I want the horror boom to continue. The more good horror out there, the better. So here are some of my ideas for ways to make sure the boom doesn’t fizzle out:

  • Focus on telling a good scary story. This seems obvious, but some companies get so caught up in having a successful film or franchise, they forget to make a good horror film. Remember last year’s The Mummy? That film was convoluted, packed to the brim, and not at all scary. Not a good start for a film that was supposed to be the launching point for an entire cinematic horror universe. Which was the problem: Universal was so concerned with getting their franchise off the ground, they forgot what let Iron Man get the MCU off the ground: a good film in and of itself. If Iron Man had not led to the MCU, it still would’ve been an excellent superhero film. The Mummy should’ve been made that way, but unfortunately, it wasn’t, and now the Dark Universe is sunk.
    So remember kids, focus on a good story first, franchise a distant second. At least said franchise is up and running, of course.
  • Take chances on new/indie directors and stories. A lot of great horror films have come from the indie scene and/or from new/emerging directors. It Follows and Babadook were both very successful horror films from directors with less than three films under their belts, and the former was from the indie scene. Get Out was from Jordan Peele, who had never done a horror film before in his life.
    And all these stories are original plots. In an age where every other movie is a sequel, remake, or some variation on a familiar story or trend, adding something new to the horror canon has the ability to draw in a diverse audience, rather than just the smaller audience of devoted fans and some possible new ones.
    So take a few risks. It could lead to some big returns.
  • Adapt more than just Stephen King. Yeah, I’m happy for the many Stephen King adaptations being made (Library Policeman movie, please?). But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Even his Royal Scariness: I got sick of him back in high school because I read too much King and had to take a break for a few years. I still make sure to space out my dives into his stories nowadays. And if that could happen to me with his books, imagine what it could do to audiences with too many of his movies.
    The point is, there are a number of horror writers out there whose works should be adapted. Scott Thomas’s Kill Creek is one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year; Ania Ahlborn’s Within These Walls would make a great Blumhouse movie; Junji Ito has plenty of stories that could make great films; and as I noted in a previous post, HP Lovecraft is in the public domain and would make for great cinema. It’s something to consider.
    And before you ask, “What about your works, Rami?” I would be flattered if someone showed interest in adapting one of my stories. However, I don’t think that’s a possibility at this stage of my career, so I’m not going to get my hopes up. Still, I’d be flattered.

Horror is finally being given the attention it deserves from Hollywood, and I couldn’t be happier for it. However, it’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of good stories, for horror to continue to thrive. I hope that filmmakers old and new are up to the task.