What the hell is this?
The preview for Jordan Peele’s Nope suggests things, some stranger than others, but doesn’t congeal into a plot reveal. What is Nope? An alien horror flick? A mass hallucination that has townsmen (and townswomen) wantonly killing? The product of a psychedelic gas permeating their atmosphere? All three? One of the most watched Super Bowl commercials, Nope seems to transcend the already spot-on Get Out (2017) and Us (2019). And that’s a good sign for Peele’s third horror movie.
Peele’s monosyllabically titled films over the last few years use horror to tackle the Black American socio-cultural experience. Along the way, they’ve been scary as hell. Laced with symbology and odes to the movie industry, the new trailer for Nope one-up’s the jumps and the on-the-nose commentary by introducing mystery and intrigue.
There’s already a fun fan theory floated about what the movie could possibly be about. Is Nope really an acronymic title meaning Not Of Planet Earth? The sinister, saucer-shaped clouds in the sky in the film’s official trailer suggest that. There are also lots of people looking up. And creepy crawlies galore. All said, the movie’s title also reflects Universal Pictures’ tight grip as most of Nope’s details are tightly under wraps. Several character names have yet to make it onto IMDB. There is a cast list, however.
Nope stars Keke Palmer and Peele acting mainstay Daniel Kaluuya as James Haywood, and Keke Palmer as Jill Haywood, who is either James’ wife or sister. The pair take care of the Haywood ranch, “the only Black-owned horse trainers in Hollywood.”
While Kaluuya offers a typical understated intensity, Palmer shines as the ultra-cool front person, talking up her lineage.
“Did you know that the very first assembly of photographs to create a motion picture was a two-second clip of a Black man on a horse? And that man is my great great grandfather.”
“Great,” a downcast Kaluuya mumbles behind her.
“There’s another great!”
It’s a clever way of invoking the oft-ignored history of persons of color in this country.
“We like to stay that ever since pictures could move, we had skin in the game,” Palmer says around a spin move.
While things start out fun, the action gets dark when, back at the ranch, the power cuts out. There are few places that feel more ominous than an isolated rural outpost when the lights go out. Strange lights on the horizon replace indoor bulbs, portending an invasion as billowing clouds race toward the ranch.
What follows is a sequence of Little Stevie Wonder and screaming soundtrack-inflected scenes. Snakes blinking on old reel film. Echoes of E.T. as a small, slimy claw reaches out for a fist bump. A red cowboy suited Steven Yeun staring up at something interrupting the great blue above.
Whether Nope has a hidden code in its title or not, what’s certain is that its preview brings a heck of a lot of hype without revealing what actually lies in the skies.
Nope is scheduled for distribution on July 22. Produced by Universal Pictures, there are, so far, no official releases regarding the sci-fi horror flick’s streaming availability.
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