Culture Crash 19-14: Sketch Comic Becomes Movies’ Hottest Horror Director


Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

In 2017, Jordan Peele released Get Out, his directorial debut, and was met with a storm of praise and accolades. The film silenced any doubts about a sketch comic becoming a horror director and even earned Peele an Oscar for its screenplay.

Of course, it still remained to be determined as to whether or not Peele would be able to replicate his success and net another big win with a sophomore effort. That film is called Us and it was released a few weeks ago. Us follows a woman and her family on their relaxing vacation, which grows tense when a family that looks exactly like them comes to visit. Pretty quickly, that tension ratchets up to full-on horror.

Us opened to a thunderous boom at the box office, earning $70 million in its first weekend––a record for an original horror movie. It appears we have a new brand-name in filmmaking, joining the likes of Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino as directors who can fill seats simply with the power of their own name.

Beyond just his marketability though, Peele is giving us something movie fans have been craving for decades: thoughtful, intentional horror movies with something to say. His movies aren’t just cheap thrills and haunted cell phones. Both of Peele’s movies have been jam-packed with social commentary, thematically perfect music selections, and spine-tingling moments that will resonate even after the credits roll. Every moment of a Jordan Peele movie is now something to analyze. Every board game in the background, every VHS tape on the shelf–they all mean something, and half the fun is in parsing through what those all suggest.

If Get Out announced Peele’s arrival, then Us has declared his staying power and audiences everywhere can’t wait to see what else he has in store.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 17-51: 2017’s “Little” Horror Movies

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine american culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

One of the biggest stories in film this year has been the successes of the little horror movies.

Stephen King’s “It” qualifies for sure. The movie was produced for $35 million and has made nearly $600 million worldwide. That is a superhero-blockbuster’s total gross on a fraction of the budget. In fact, it has made more than “Logan”, “Justice League”, “Kong: Skull Island, and “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

But movies made for a fraction of “It’s” budget have dominated the box office this year as well. those movies are the brainchild of producer Jason Blum.

Blum founded his company Blumhouse Productions in 2000 around the premise that he could turn micro-budget horror movies into big hits. His first huge splash was 2009’s “Paranormal Activity.” Shot on a $15,000 budget, the movie managed to gross $193 million worldwide. That’s a 12,866% return on investment which, let’s just say that’s pretty good.

If that was the movie that really announced Blumhouse on a national stage, this was the year Blum and his company became a force to be reckoned with.

This year, they released their two biggest movies yet. in January, they released M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split.” The movie was filmed on a $9 million budget and made $278 million globally, which again, is quite a good run.

But the other movie Blum released this year is the real story because in February, the company released Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” This was made on half of “Split’s” budget. And the $4.5 million movie made $254 million globally, with $175 million of that coming in America alone.

Not only did this movie make back its budget 56 and a half times over, but it is now entering the awards conversation. The movie deals with race relations in a horror/comedy thriller and has been recognized as a National Board of Review top movie of 2017, and is now considered a likely nominee for best original screenplay at the Oscars.

“Split” and “Get Out” are the two highest grossing Blumhouse movies to date, but with the increased visibility that comes with two huge releases in one year and now an awards run that looks to be fruitful, it’s clear that the sky is the limit for Jason Blum and his micro-budget horror empire.

I’m Evan Rook.