In Jordan Peele’s latest horror offering, Nope, we get a familiar premise told in a very unique way. The inhabitants of a remote California town are thrust into a highly peculiar and possibly life-threatening situation, involving what may or may not be an extraterrestrial presence. All of the cinematic pieces are in place in this film and the characters are interesting enough that you will be invested in them and care what happens.The mystery surrounding the bizarre events is displayed well and we, the viewer, are taken on a twisted journey unlike any other.
Hollywood horse-training royalty OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Em (Keke Palmer) Haywood manage a horse ranch that film and tv productions utilize their services. When a tragic event shakes the siblings to the core, they begin to suspect serious foul play in the form of an unidentified flying object. They soon enlist the help of former child actor Jupe Park (Steven Yeun), tech store employee Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), and renowned cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) and this motley crew embark on a wild adventure to try and find out what exactly is going on.
Ever since 2016’s Get Out, Peele’s horror film sensibility has been praised by audiences and critics alike, even resulting in an Oscar win for Peele’s screenplay. Us in 2019 continued this trend to a wonderful degree and the most recent reboot of The Twilight Zone as well. These films and tv are highly disturbing and it isn’t surprising that Peele started out in comedy. A lot of humor comes from a dark place Get Out was basically a natural transition for the filmmaker. There are a number of frightening moments in Nope that will keep you thoroughly creeped out. The trailer alone, which dropped last February, was bone-chilling all by itself and now months later, we finally get the full picture.
With any horror film or film in general, the cast is at the forefront and the relationships between everyone is what really sells any movie. Kaluuya and Palmer are just great as the Haywood siblings and their chemistry is just spot on. OJ is the no nonsense straight man and Palmer, the zany comic relief with large ambition. Yeun and Perea also add quirky humor to the mix and Wincott is a delight as a true artist who, like everyone else, has been pulled into this truly nutty predicament.
Horror films these days often lack the originality necessary to pull in viewers but Nope strays very far from this movie trap. Peele’s direction coupled with the brilliant sound design and score (by composer Michael Abels) create a film experience not seen in a while. If possible, one should try seeing this film in IMAX, just so you get the full effect and immerse yourself in the intensity of the plot. Filmed in the desolate yet lovely mountainous region of Aqua Dulce, California, the setting is just as much a character as the people in it are. Anything can happen in this region and it pretty much does. Acclaimed cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema has definitely painted a gorgeous picture with the camera, a worthy member on Peele’s gifted team. Together, they manage to draw the audience in and created something really quite special.
One of the other fascinating aspects of Nope is the strong marketing campaign over the past year which was successful in keeping the film’s plot and tone a little mysterious. The title alone suggests comedy but the disturbing images suggest a horror movie that is potentially traumatic. Thankfully, we get a lovely combination of both and while the film is scary in parts, there are equal moments of humor which definitely lighten things up a bit at the appropriate moments. While Nope isn’t a perfect film or even better than Peele’s previous works, there is a lot of meat here and the plot and themes are certainly up for discussion. Multiple viewings are warranted because an initial viewing might leave audiences wanting more. This is a film with many merits and if you want a truly different viewing experience, that with the originality of the story coupled with the performances, this makes for one interesting ride. Say “yes” to Nope.