Tag Archives: Daniel Kaluuya

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Judas and the Black Messiah

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton
Lakeith Stanfield as William “Bill” O’Neal
Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell
Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson
Ashton Sanders as Jimmy Palmer
Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover
Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush
Lil Rel Howery as Wayne
Algee Smith as Jake Winters
Director: Shaka King

Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

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I heard about Judas and the Black Messiah for a while, I already liked the actors involved, but it was the trailer that made it stand out for me. It then quickly became one of my most anticipated movies and it especially came up in awards conversations, particularly with the performances. It was pushed back to the next year but was released early enough so that it could make it to the current upcoming awards season. Judas and the Black Messiah definitely lived up to the acclaim and expectations.

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Judas and the Black Messiah is written incredibly well and is captivating from beginning to end. It’s tightly scripted and compelling, with a strong energy and an intense atmosphere throughout. One of the standout aspects that makes the movie work so well is that it doesn’t feel like a typical biopic, probably because it isn’t. In some ways it feels more like a historical drama/thriller about one person infiltrating a group, and that helps it work even better if anything. The film at its core is about Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, as well as FBI informant William O’Neal who infiltrates the Black Panther Party. Both storylines get roughly the same amount of screentime and are presented with equal weight, representing an important perspective of a significant time period. The movie is tough to watch at times, it’s a hauntingly tragic powerhouse of a drama that is riveting, even if (and especially if) you know how it ends. One of the biggest surprises of the movie is that it doesn’t shy away from painting the police and the FBI as the bad guys, and it also unapologetic with showing Hampton’s leftist views, both of which you wouldn’t think that a big budget awards movie would do. As you can probably tell from the subject matter, the movie is timely, meaningful and impactful to today’s society. It’s a smart and uncompromising tragedy about fear and power that’s likely to keep you on edge and hooked throughout.

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The acting from everyone in this movie is great. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Fred Hampton, and he didn’t just play him, he truly becomes him. His performance is magnetic and commands a lot of attention every time he’s on screen. He’s not portraying Hampton as a martyr or a hero, but a real person who is fighting for his rights. He inhabits the role perfectly, exuding the same emotions one would expect from him. He’s sensational here, every single line delivery has passion, and those big speeches are where he particularly shines. It’s likely because of Kaluuya’s standout performance that some might forget Lakeith Stanfield’s layered performance as informant William O’Neal, which might be his best work to date. We see much of the film through his eyes, showing us what he went through. Surprisingly, the film never truly demonises his character, bringing sympathy to the role of someone who sold out his own people. You can feel the turmoil within him as he questions whether he’s doing the right thing, as well as the paranoia and shame that eats away at him throughout. It does feel like his role is a bit underwritten, but the performance does a lot to make up for that. The supporting cast in Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and Ashton Sanders also deliver some great work too.

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Shaka King’s direction is great, he has a very sleek and unique style of filmmaking. From the cinematography, to the production design, the costumes and the score, everything was perfectly constructed. It’s particularly shot beautifully, and the way the ‘action’ scenes were filmed were interesting. King’s makes the film feel very grounded and really helped add to the intense atmosphere in the film.

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Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that deserves all the praise and accolades. It’s directed incredibly well, it’s written masterfully, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. Watch it as soon as you get the chance to.

Widows (2018) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
Viola Davis as Veronica Rawlings
Michelle Rodriguez as Linda Perelli
Elizabeth Debicki as Alice Gunner
Cynthia Erivo as Belle
Colin Farrell as Jack Mulligan
Brian Tyree Henry as Jamal Manning
Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning
Jacki Weaver as Agnieska
Carrie Coon as Amanda Nunn
Robert Duvall as Tom Mulligan
Liam Neeson as Harry Rawlings
Director: Steve McQueen

A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows – Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) — have nothing in common except a debt left behind by their spouses’ criminal activities. Hoping to forge a future on their own terms, Veronica joins forces with the other three women to pull off a heist that her husband was planning.

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I have been waiting for Widows for a long time, it’s my most anticipated film of 2018. So many things were going for it, not only is Steve McQueen (Shame and 12 Years a Shame) directing, not only is Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl and Sharp Objects) writing the script, but it also has the biggest cast of the year: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson and more make up the talented cast. I was looking forward to seeing McQueen, Flynn and the cast tackling essentially a heist movie, there is so much potential that the combination of talent had. Thankfully it absolutely delivered and unsurprisingly ended up being one of the best films of the year.

Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen together wrote Widows and it’s a really great script overall. First thing that should be noted is that although it is a ‘heist movie’, it’s not like Heat where you get see a number of heists. The actual heist doesn’t occur until the third act and when it happens it’s actually not that long. Much of Widows consists of the 4 main characters trying to figure out how they are going to pull off the heist, while also following their personal lives following the aftermath of their dead husbands’ failed heist. Widows could’ve easily just been that, and with Flynn and McQueen working on it, and it could’ve been really good. However they go above and beyond that, making it more than just a genre movie. Knowing McQueen especially, I knew that it would be more than just a simple heist movie, and I was right (though it still is his most accessible film by far). There is a lot more going on, for example during the course of the movie, there’s an election going on and the events of the heist could very well affect things that are happening with regard to that. Widows also really takes its time following its characters and their individual plotlines, it really isn’t a fast paced thriller like the trailers have made it out to be. On top of that there’s a lot of thematic elements to the movie that I think most people won’t be expecting going in. As this is Gillian Flynn, there are going to be some twists and they all worked really well. I think there might’ve been some I could figure out but none of them were like glaringly obvious or anything. I think something that some people may take issue with is that there are some things towards the end of the movie that aren’t resolved completely. It’s not like a cliffhanger ending or anything but it doesn’t go into detail with how some plotlines are resolved, some plotlines’ endings are a little ambiguous. That can go for some of the characters as well, for example with Colin Farrell, there is sort of an end to his story but there isn’t quite as much as you’d like. Maybe with some of the characters if we got a little more than what we had it would’ve been better but it was enough. In terms of other problems, the only scene that was out of place was one with Michelle Rodriguez when she goes to try to get information out of someone, and every single person who has seen the movie knows exactly which scene I’m referring to. I’m not really sure what the point of that scene was but it’s a little random. Doesn’t break the movie or anything but it stands out as being a little odd. The movie takes place over 1 month but it feels like it takes place over 2 weeks at most, not really a big issue it’s just something I noticed. On the whole the movie runs for 2 hours and 10 minutes long and aside from that one scene, I was completely on board with everything.

One of the highlights of the movie was the immensely talented cast and no matter how small of a role their had, every single actor was at the top of their game delivering great performances, not a single performance felt miscast or weak. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo are the main leads who are trying to pull off the heist. Viola Davis is really the lead of this movie and as usual she crushes it in her role, though it’s come to be expected of the powerhouse Davis. She commands a lot of presence and is really the leader of the group but at the same time she still feels very vulnerable, both the film and Viola balance it out well. I’ve really known Michelle Rodriguez just from the Fast and Furious movies but in her role in Widows (a very different kind of heist film) she really shows off a lot of talent, she was really great here. I’d actually like to see Rodriguez in more dramatic work now. Elizabeth Debicki has proved herself as a great actress in things like The Night Manager and The Great Gatsby, but she really gives an impressive performance here. Her character has a lot to deal with, having received abuse from both her husband and her mother, and she played the role very well. Cynthia Erivo made a strong impact in this year’s Bad Times at the El Royale and she’s also great here as not a widow, but someone who comes in to join the group. Something that I liked is how all 4 of them don’t feel like they are at all capable of pulling it off. They’ve never done any heists themselves and so they have to learn to get things done. They also don’t necessarily get along, they are coming together to pull a heist because they have no choice, so it’s interesting watching them work together despite all this.

The rest of the cast are all great as well, no matter how large or small of a role they are in. Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry are great as opposing politicians who are both campaigning for alderman of a prescient (the latter of whom is applying pressure to the widows to get 2 million dollars). Robert Duvall also plays his small role as Farrell’s father quite well. Liam Neeson is also great in a small but significant role as Davis’s husband who was among the criminals who died during the heist and while he’s not in a ton of the movie, he gave his best performance in a while, probably since 2012’s The Grey, he does so much with very little. Out of the supporting cast however, it’s Daniel Kaluuya who’s the standout, playing Brian Tyree Henry’s brother and enforcer. He doesn’t have a ton of scenes but he really makes an impact whenever he’s on screen. He just exudes this uncomfortable vibe in every scene he’s in, and you’re not sure of what he’ll do next, very intimidating. With his Black Mirror appearance, Sicario, Get Out, Black Panther and now Widows, Kaluuya has shown himself to be one of the most exciting actors working today, displaying a very large range. Well deserving of a lot of praise, especially for his performance here. Some actors are pretty much cameos here, like Jon Bernthal, Jacki Weaver and Carrie Coon but they were good in their roles nonetheless.

Steve McQueen’s direction is nothing short of fantastic. This film feels incredibly real, the heist scenes aren’t blown out of proportion and feel very gritty. Some of the directing choices made by McQueen particularly stood out as being fantastic, 2 immediately come to mind. The first one was circling around Kaluuya’s character in one of his intimidating scenes. The second one is in a scene where Colin Farrell and his campaign manager get into a car following a rally and instead of cutting inside, the camera stays on the exterior of the limo as it travels from a derelict urban neighbourhood to a gentrified suburb (where Farrell lives) while the two of them are having a conversation. It was just incredibly visual storytelling. Hans Zimmer’s score is of course great and while you don’t hear a ton of it in the movie, often it really amps up the tension when it’s present.

Widows is fantastic and one of the best films of the year. Everyone in this star studded cast plays their role excellently (with Davis, Debicki and Kaluuya being standouts) and Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn made what could’ve been a simple heist movie into something much more and is just all around great from start to finish. Not enough people are seeing it and I implore you to go out and see Widows in the cinema, it deserves it and you deserve it.

Sicario (2015) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Emily Blunt as Kate Macer
Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick
Josh Brolin as Matt Graver
Victor Garber as Dave Jennings
Jon Bernthal as Ted
Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne
Director: Denis Villeneuve

After rising through the ranks of her male-dominated profession, idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) receives a top assignment. Recruited by mysterious government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), Kate joins a task force for the escalating war against drugs. Led by the intense and shadowy Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the team travels back-and-forth across the U.S.-Mexican border, using one cartel boss (Bernardo Saracino) to flush out a bigger one (Julio Cesar Cedillo).

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Denis Villeuneve already started becoming one of my favourite directors ever since I saw Prisoners for the first time, and when I saw Sicario for the first time, he solidified himself as one of the best directors working today. Once again, he showcased his incredible talents behind the camera. Sicario is a dark and gripping thriller, made even better by the excellent direction and acting. Watching it again only made me appreciate this film even more.

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This is Taylor Sheridan’s first script and for a writing debut, he did a great job here. He would go on to write for great films like Hell or High Water, Wind River and soon the hopefully good Sicario sequel. This movie did very well in establishing a very dark tone and feels really based in reality. It feels appropriately unpleasant and uneasy throughout, really making Juarez feel like a threatening and dangerous place that our characters are inside and in danger. From beginning to end, you never feel that these characters are completely safe. Understand that while this movie does have some thrilling sequences and is about the cartel, it’s not an action filled movie. It takes its time with its pacing and plot. And with that I can see some people feeling that the scenes are a little too long, but I didn’t experience any of these problems, at least on my second viewing. The movie does end up shifting in perspective from Emily Blunt to Benicio del Toro in the last act. It wasn’t necessarily a bad decision, it’s just that it was a little jarring all of a sudden a change in protagonists after we got used to Emily Blunt following for about an hour and a half. This movie is 2 hours long, having seen it twice I would’ve liked it to be slightly longer, but it’s not like a major problem or anything. Otherwise it’s a rather suiting runtime.

The acting was all around great. Emily Blunt is great in here as the lead, this is probably her best performance to date (at least from what I’ve seen from her). She was really the audience surrogate (maybe a little too much), but she still works well enough as a character. You can see her character change over time as she witnesses more things over the course of the movies. She’s very much wanting to do things by the book and that is conflicted by certain aspects. While the character potentially could’ve been improved, Emily Blunt does elevate the character with her performance. Josh Brolin was really good here, exerting a lot of charm while hiding a lot of his true intentions, very memorable performance. However we don’t really get to find out too much about him as a character. A standout however was Benicio del Toro, he plays an intriguing character due to his backstory being shrouded in secrecy until it’s revealed later on. Del Toro also gives quite an effective performance as his character of Alejandro. Daniel Kaluuya was also really good in his role, getting to stand out amongst the rest of the cast. Other actors like Victor Garber and Jon Bernthal added to the movie as well.

Denis Villeneuve’s direction is once again fantastic, he handled the whole film very well. Elevating the film even more is the cinematography by Roger Deakins, which unsurprisingly is phenomenal once again. He portrays Juarez as being a very dangerous place and displays it well. The action sequences are also fantastically shot and feel grounded in reality. There are lots of tense scenes that are effective, Villeneuve places you right in the middle of these situations. One of the examples of said scenes was a border crossing scene in the first half of the movie. The soundtrack from Johann Johannsson was also excellent, ominous and haunting. The whole movie really does a great job at making you feel uncomfortable and unsettled.

Sicario was another great film by Denis Villeneuve, delivering one of the best films of 2015. Sicario upon its release only solidified Villeneuve as a director to really pay attention to. I’m not sure how the sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, will end up being but with Taylor Sheridan, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin returning, I’m confident that it’ll be something good.

Black Panther (2018) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens
Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia
Danai Gurira as Okoye
Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross
Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi
Letitia Wright as Shuri
Winston Duke as M’Baku
Angela Bassett as Ramonda
Forest Whitaker as Zuri
Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue
Director: Ryan Coogler

After the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

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Black Panther was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. Not only was it a Marvel movie and one focussing on Black Panther (who became one of my favourite MCU characters after Civil War) and not only does it have a fantastic cast, Ryan Coogler directed it. Coogler had already established himself as a director to pay attention to after Fruitvale Station and Creed, so naturally I was excited to see him work on a comic book movie. Black Panther definitely had the potential to be one of the best MCU films and having seen it, I can say that it didn’t disappoint.

Black Panther is yet another Marvel comic book movie and there are aspects of it that feel like a Marvel movie but yet it feels quite fresh and new. After the first few scenes, I was riveted with Black Panther through to the very end. The characters were really memorable and established very well. The themes explored in the movie was really effective and the social commentary was applied well and didn’t feel forced at all, they were very well integrated into the story. The MCU often had a problem with its humour, but Black Panther’s was effective for the most part and most importantly didn’t kill any dramatic or emotional moment just for a joke. Black Panther also doesn’t feel like it’s too connected to the rest of the MCU, there are character’s like Martin Freeman’s Ross and Andy Serkis’s Klaue who were in other Marvel movies and there may be a brief reference to the MCU but on the whole it’s standalone. On another note, there are a couple of post credit scenes, I liked them both but the first of them really should’ve been part of the actual movie itself. I’ve noticed that recent MCU movies such as Thor Ragnarok and Captain America Civil War have post credit scenes which don’t just tease the future movies but are also important to the actual movie itself, so when these scenes are placed after the credits it feels like they just didn’t know where to put the scene. I just wished that they would handle these scenes better.

The characters in Black Panther are great and Coogler has a fantastic cast playing them. Chadwick Boseman is once again great as T’Challa/Black Panther. T’Challa is quite a different character compared to the other MCU heroes, he is more serious and isn’t a constant humorous quipper like some of the more recent characters like Ant Man, but he does have moments of levity. More importantly though, he is a king and so it feels very fresh and new watching this type of character in the lead role. With his solo movie, T’Challa once again shows himself to be one of the best characters in the MCU and Boseman again killed it. The supporting cast with Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and others do quite well, Letitia Wright was particularly a stand out as T’Challa’s sister. It’s common for Marvel villains to not be that great, every so often you’ll have a Loki or a Vulture but on the whole, they just end up being passable. Thankfully, not only is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger great, he is one of the best villains in this cinematic universe. He is very well established and written and you can really understand why he does the things he does and maybe even agree with his views, even if you don’t agree with his methods. Aside from an early scene though, he’s mostly just in the second half of the movie, however he absolutely steals every scene he’s in. The other villain is Andy Serkis as Klaue (who was established in Avengers Age of Ultron in a rare motion-capture-less role) and he is very entertaining when he’s on screen.

Ryan Coogler once again shows himself to be a really great director. The action scenes were great, very well shot and choregraphed. Coogler also portrayed the fictional country of Wakanda greatly, from the production design to the costume design, everything feels different from anything you’ve seen. There are some truly great cinematography at times. The music was also really good, one of the more memorable score of the MCU movies. There were some action sequences that took place at night that were difficult to see and the CG as times looked a little fake, especially with some of the big action sequences, however they aren’t close to being the worse CG ever. Despite these aspects, most of the direction was great.

Black Panther was really great and surpassed my expectations. Yes it’s entertaining and watching the action sequences are enjoyable but it’s really the story and characters that stood out the most to me. It separated itself from other Marvel and comic book movies and is really something special. I don’t know yet if I’d call it the best MCU movie but it’s at least in the top 2, and after many movies since Captain America The Winter Soldier, that’s saying a lot.

Get Out (2017) Review

Time: Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and horror
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington
Allison Williams as Rose Armitage
Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage
Catherine Keener as Missy Armitage
Caleb Landry Jones as Jeremy Armitage
Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams
Betty Gabriel as Georgina
Marcus Henderson as Walter
LaKeith Stanfield as Logan King
Stephen Root as Jim Hudson
Director: Jordan Peele

Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.

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Get Out is a movie that has been getting a lot of attention recently, and has already been called one of the best films of 2017. While it looked interesting, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. After finally seeing it, I have to say that Get Out really deserves all the hype, it really surprised me. It is both a great horror movie, as well as a great comedy. Jordan Peele has directed a great social commentary on modern racism, while at the same time creating a great horror movie.

I was riveted from start to finish in this movie. Get Out has the perfect mix of horror and comedy. Horror comedies are extremely difficult to get right but this film nailed it, it knew when to have scares and when to have comedy, and none of these moments felt tonally out of place. This movie wasn’t that scary to me personally (granted most horror movies don’t really scare me) but it is very well crafted. Until the last act, most of the ‘scares’ aren’t that significant, but there is a constant feeling of uneasiness, as you know that something is off, you don’t know what it is. At the same time this movie is hilarious, sometimes some of the scares and ‘weird’ moments are for comedy, the dialogue at times can be really funny, especially between Chris and his friend Rod, and the comedy (when present) never detracts from the scares or tension. Of course the mix of horror and comedy isn’t just what makes the movie work so well, this film is smartly written by Jordan Peele. This movie is honestly one of the best written horror movies in recent years. The social commentary of Get Out is absolutely genius, which Peele explores in very subtle bits of dialogue, symbolism and writing. The racism aspect of the film is actually more in depth and complex than you may think, its not just that the girlfriend’s family is racist and doesn’t like Chris, there’s a lot more to it. So many things in this movie really does reflect today’s society, from the dialogue, to the way people act. In fact I’d say the most unrealistic thing in the movie is that someone uses Bing as a search engine. I won’t reveal too much about the movie as I don’t want to ruin any surprises, I’ll let you experience all this for yourself.

The acting from everyone was really good. Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams are very convincing as this couple who are basically surrounded by uncomfortable people. Kaluuya particularly was great, no matter your race it is very easy to relate to his character Chris, and Daniel’s acting played a big part in that working effectively. The girlfriend’s family members with Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener and Caleb Landry Jones were also great, very unsettling but at the same time not too over the top. If there’s a showstealer performance it is of Lil Rel Howery as Chris’s friend, there are many moments when they talk on the phone. He was so hilarious, and the interactions with him and Chris were incredible entertaining.

The film is very well directed overall. It’s clear that Jordan Peele knows and loves horror, and he directs it excellently here. The scares were very well implemented throughout the movie, there aren’t many jump scares and when they are there, they are effective and well placed. The film looks absolutely stunning, and the visuals are amazing. This movie does have a lot of subtle visual symbolism, which Peele inserted into the movie in such a great way. The soundtrack by Michael Abels was really effective, and added a lot to the horror and suspense.

Get Out is one of the best horror movies in recent years. Smart, creepy and hilarious all at the same time, it’s no surprise why this film has been met with such critical acclaim. It seems that Peele has created a new type of horror/thriller, the ‘social thriller’. Apparently he’s planning on making more of these types of movies, and I’m very intrigued. He’s shown his talents as a director and writer with Get Out, so I can’t wait to see more of his work. If you are a fan of horror, I definitely recommend checking this out. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of horror I suggest watching it. It’s one of the best movies of the year.