Author Topic: NOPE: another classic Jordan Peele horror film  (Read 292 times)

Offline perc2100

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NOPE: another classic Jordan Peele horror film
« on: July 26, 2022, 10:03:51 AM »
Jordan Peele said the idea for his latest horror film, NOPE, was sparked because he was concerned with the state of film distribution: worried more companies would shift to streaming and disregarding theatrical releases.  He wanted to make a film that was essentially a big spectacle.  I'd say he accomplished his goal!

NOPE is about a struggling family of Hollywood horse wranglers: you know, the folks who supply and take care of horses when the animals are needed on a film set.  Going with Peele's concerns, the Hollywood film production we first see in the film disregards both the horse they want to use, as well as the broth/sister wranglers Em & OJ.  After someone on set disregards the advice of the wranglers and the horse gets spooked, the director makes the decision to ditch the real horse and substitute with CGI: hence, eliminating the real spectacle (horse-as-theatrical release) with a more controlled, lesser spectacle (CGI horse-as-streaming release).

Of course, Peele is just getting warmed up with his symbolism and subtext here!  Of course, the subtext only works if the main story works, and it is a bit of a spectacle.  OJ and Em Haywood (played by BLACK PANTHER's Daniel Kaluuya & HUSTLE's Keke Palmer) take over the family business of being horse wranglers after their dad (the impeccably awesome Keith David) dies suddenly from a coin hitting him after falling mysteriously from the sky (coin = token?).  The family business is struggling, as mentioned above Hollywood sees horses as mere 'things' that are used for only their benefit (not unlike minorities in the film industry, a strong theme Peele delves into throughout NOPE).  They keep having to sell animals to Ricky 'Jupe' Park (played by Steven Yeun) in order to keep the place up and running.

Jupe, meanwhile, is a former child actor in the hilariously craptacular-looking mid-90's (made-up) sitcom "Gordy's Home."  Jupe was a (presumably) adopted Asian child of a white upper-middle class family of three that somehow also has an ape named Gordy.  Both Gordy and Jupe feel like the 'token' minorities that are there for either pure spectacle and/or punchline-setups: _INCREDIBLY_ common in the 70's-90's (think Short Round in TEMPLE OF DOOM, or Long Duk Dong in 16 CANDLES for example of minorities that were used by Hollywood as 'things' instead of tangible 3-dimensional characters).  On day shooting a scene of Gordy's birthday party, the ape is freaked out when a balloon pops and goes on a rampage seriously beating down the white actors of the sitcom while Jupe watches, terrified, under a table.  Eventually Gordy shows a tender moment of kindship with Jupe: perhaps recognizing they're both being used similarly.
Anyway, after that disaster Jupe has struggled finding his way in the entertainment business and has setup a sort of huckster carnival that revolves around mysterious UFO sightings in the area.  Jupe uses his wife and kids to entertain audiences with the UFO that appears to be attracted to the horses Jupe has purchased from the Haywoods.

Meanwhile the Haywoods see the UFO as their ticket out.  They intend to video the UFO for profit, in order to cement their legacy: both financial and reputation.  The end up hiring a renowned cinematographer to film the UFO, played by Michael Wincott.  Yes, we live in a multiverse where two of the greatest character actors of their generation (with amazingly unique voices, no less) are in the same film!

The film works mostly due to both the great acting by an incredibly solid cast as well as Pelle's direction and writing that builds tension and dread throughout the film.  There is some truly amazing sound effects editing throughout as well that makes this a must-see in theaters.  And to cap it all off, the UFO (which isn't necessarily an alien, per say, but it gets kinda complicated and I'll let you discover this one for yourselves) design, in its final form (not the 'flying saucer' looking thing) is a truly interesting and visually unique design.  So often 'aliens' nowadays seem to have similar designs (so many seem to look like the beast of Cloverfield), and this one in NOPE truly stands out.

Jordan Peele is a great, new and fresh voice for horror cinema.  He truly accomplishes what the great set out to do, which is craft an excellent story on its own while also loading his films with subtext and metaphors pertinent to its day.  This film kept me guessing as to where it was going (the hallmark of a good horror/thriller film IMO) with characters we can all understand, if not relate to.  I could write a lengthy article just about the subtext here of minorities struggling in Hollywood as the film is rich in content.  The main story is also incredibly compelling, with the Gordy stuff being truly intense at times: Peele shows us 'pieces' of the rampage throughout the film, where we don't quite get to see exactly what happened until fairly late in the film.

If your the type of person who looks up at the sky and can take a moment to cherish the beauty and wonder of the clouds, while maybe thinking "this doesn't quite look right..." then NOPE is definitely for you.  Peele's messaging isn't overbearing, and is maybe even subtle (ish): at the very least it's incredibly easy to get caught up with the Haywood's plight that starts as trying to capture a UFO image but morphs into just surviving the ordeal.  This is a great horror/sci-fi movie that I think should be seen in theaters: just as writer/director/producer Jordan Peele intended!