“This dream you’re chasing, where you end up at the top of the mountain, all eyes on you… it’s the dream you never wake up from.”
The magic that is Jordan Peele is one in-a-million. The comedian turned visionary horror director, with his two previous films Get Out and Us, has shown that he is more than capable of captivating audiences with psychological terror. No doubt he has now entered that coveted place where studios have immense confidence—thus giving him a large budget to play with. And now it brings us to his third, and newest film: Nope.
Where does this one rank in Peele’s directing filmography? It’s a complicated answer as Nope is not like his other two films. The trailers were released displaying some type of UFO entity as the skies grew darker over our characters’ home. And while that it is the general creepy plot, the layers are ever evolving. Nope follows the lives of Otis “OJ” Haywood Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer). We first meet the two as they’re working a film shoot as horse trainers after the recent passing of their father (Keith David). The tragic death—unusual and violent—is still fresh in their minds. OJ is keeping his father’s business alive at all costs, but Emerald sees this as a chance to push herself in the entertainment business. This is where we see the personality differences of the two siblings—the complexities that lay beneath the surface.
The business has taken a beating. And since the father’s death, their promised projects are no longer in the works. Now OJ has to begin selling off their beloved steeds to a local neighbor and rodeo entrepreneur, Jupe (Steven Yeun), to use in his shows. However, Jupe has his own trauma after the former child star witnessed a horrific event onset of the television show he was on when he was little—forever immortalizing him as “that kid from that show.” OJ and his sister soon become plagued with unknown occurrences involving they’re electricity mysteriously shutting down, or the horses acting strange. As the supernatural events unravel for the Haywoods, it becomes bigger than they could have imagined.
Peele brings us into the climax of the film slowly—only giving us inches of the film in a non-linear manner. This blending of “love for filmmaking” and also a “love for horror” is his bread and butter. It may be pure Peele illustrating for us his two creative loves. However, there’s something a bit weaker here than his two previous films. Nope is still a decent horror in its own right, but lacks that Peele punch. I continued to long for a moment that would send shockwaves down my spine, but for me, that never came. Overall, it was all rather tame. The performances don’t do anything to add to the fear factor, but do add a sense of comedy relief from the tense moments, which I can appreciate.
Nope doesn’t get a “nope” from me, but just a meh. Apart for the fantastic visuals, including the amazing cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema, the story was only okay. I’m sure I’m in the minority with my criticism, but I left this film wanting so much more.
Written and Directed by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, and Keith David