Nope

A great premise and masterful filmmaking cement Jordan Peele’s position as a great modern director.

I really don’t want to spoil this movie. The ads have done a great job of hinting at the premise without outright stating it, so I’m going to talk around the film and deal with spoilers in the section portion.

The film follows a brother and sister who run a horse ranch near LA. Their family has been working with horses for the movie industry since the beginning of cinema. The brother OJ, played by Daniel Kaluuya, has taken on the task of running the ranch with stoic intensity. He is haunted by the unexplained death of his father. His sister Emerald, played by Keke Palmer, flits in and out of the ranch with reckless abandon. These two unite in a quest to understand what happened to their father and where their horses keep disappearing to.

Unlike Peele’s previous film Us, which was pure horror combined with social commentary, Nope is more suspenseful and tension driven. It reminds me more of Jaws than any other horror film. It’s horror lies in implication and suggestion. It’s monsters lurk just off screen. It’s heroes are ordinary people up against a force of nature beyond their control.

The characters depicted are well drawn and sharply performed. I really felt like I knew these people by the end and that their journey was my journey. Peele’s strengths as a writer have served him well.

The issue I have is probably the same issue a lot of viewers will have. The themes explored in the movie are a little obfuscated. There is a subplot that involves a 90’s tv show and a chimpanzee. This subplot felt very random when viewed next to the family ranch storyline. The two elements are thematically tied. It’s about the predatory and exploitative nature if the entertainment industry, but you have to dig a little deeper to see that. If you’re looking for a fun horror romp this might not be the movie for you.

I love the visuals. I love the slow burn reveal. I love that the movie doesn’t talk down to the audience. This is totally my cup of tea. A

Okay spoiler territory!

For anyone who hasn’t had the movie spoiled, the film involves a UFO. There is a cloud hovering about the ranch that does not move during the day. At night the camouflage disappears revealing a saucer that flies through the sky.

OJ is convinced that the UFO is responsible for his fathers death. He is driven to prove its existence through any means. He buys cameras and a security system in order to capture it.

However, the UFO causes all electronics to short out, so OJ employs an old school cinematographer and his homemade film camera to capture an image of the alien and prove to everyone what he already knows.

The UFO swoops in at night and sucks horses up into its cavernous mouth. It is used as a side show by a local amusement park who tempts the UFO with a horse sacrifice and sells tickets to the locals. This backfires horribly when the UFO isn’t satisfied with the horse and takes the entire crowd into its deadly maw.

The horror comes later when the UFO regurgitates (or defecates depending on your definition of alien anatomy) the bits of the crowd it couldn’t digest. This results in a storm of blood that rains down on the ranch house as well as a cascade of wristwatches, loose change, and any other metal the crowd had on them before they became lunch.

It’s a deeply creepy and nasty idea, and it was exactly the visceral thrill I was hoping for. The alien zooms through the sky like the shark in jaws. It’s a creepy thrill seeing something look over our heroes and over us when we see the movie in the theaters.

Because of OJ’s understanding of animals he discovers that the alien responds to eye contact. If you don’t look at it, it won’t eat you. He uses this knowledge to finally catch the alien on camera, but not in the way you’d expect. This movie uses brilliant foreshadowing. It’s planting and payoff is next level.

The alien’s final form is exquisite and surreal in its design, as if Salvador Dali took magic mushrooms and designed something out of this world. I love it, but I’m sure others don’t. It was my cup of tea. This whole movie really worked for me. I hope it works for you too.

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