You can only reimagine a genre so many times. The sci-fi/horror blend has seen a do-over a few times. Alien, Jaws, and the cult classic Killer Klowns in Outer Space, all come to mind when speaking on the genre mix. Now you can insert Jordan Peele’s Nope into the conversation. Nope is a film that expertly weaves the two genres together to make another perfect tapestry for Peele.
Peele is known for using social commentary to reimagine horror. Nope is different, instead of using what we have come to know about his work, Peele takes the route that Spielberg and Ridley Scott took in the 70s. The only difference is that in Alien and Jaws, we knew what the monster/villain/predator was. In Nope, we are left to wonder for most of the film, making our imagination work over time.
The film follows OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) as they deal with being left their father Otis Sr.’s (Keith David) ranch. The brother and sister witness something very eerie and decide to try to catch it on camera. They enlist the help of Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), a Fry Electronics employee that gets caught up in the mystery as well. They want to catch the “money shot” that will get them famous.
Also, in the subplot, you have Steven Yuen’s Ricky “Jupe” Park. A traumatized man, who was a part of an incident on a live tv show as a child. He owns a park out in Agua Dulce, California, where the film takes place. He also is trying to use this mystery for his gain. The incident he was involved in has given him a type of complex that’s evident throughout the film.
Palmer and Perea steal the show. Every single time they grace the screen, it is in a compelling fashion. For this to be his first actual major studio film, Perea holds his own amongst Palmer and Kaluuya. However, the acting overall is fantastic. Yuen plays an extremely Americanized character that’s very over the top and entertaining to watch. Michael Wincott’s Antlers Holst is a very mysterious and intriguing character that helps bolster the second and third acts.
Peele penned the script and directed Nope himself per usual, but as I said before this is unlike his first two films. The social commentary we are used to seeing is a backdrop, instead, we are drowned in mystery. Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Super 8 come to mind. While the film is definitely more sci-fi than anything, the horror elements are well-executed. The anxiety Peele creates throughout the film is palpable. You’re left wondering who or what is causing the havoc, and it weighs on you.
Behind the scenes, Peele enlists Hoyte Van Hoytema (Ad Astra, Dunkirk) as the cinematographer. He captures some of the most visually-compelling shots we’ve seen in a Peele film thus far. The beauty of Agua Dulce, California, and the desert that encompasses it is put on full display. There’s something majestic about the nature of the film. Like the genre(s) the film encapsulates, Michael Abels’ score mixes Spaghetti Western with horror and sci-fi to great effect. It’s a vital element that helps bring together this beautiful movie.
Nope is ultimately a film that thrives off the mystery it presents to the audience. The wonders and horrors of space have been something Hollywood has been giving us since the 60s. But Peele elevates this in Nope with a blend of familiar elements that make for a beyond-exciting experience. I’ve mentioned Alien and Jaws, and that’s because this is where the film holds up for me. It is an elevation of the genre and something that Peele’s predecessors would rave about. Nope is fresh, scary, and a great time at the movies. – Rascal F. Kennedy
Rating – 9/10
Nope premieres in theaters on July 22, 2022.