What the hell is this?
The preview for Jordan Peele’s Nope suggests plot elements, some stranger than others, but doesn’t congeal into a full-scale 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 certainly symbolize some alien presence. There are also lots of people looking up, Gray plushies, and slimy, brown fist bumps. The movie’s title also reflects a tight grip as most of Nope’s details remain hidden under Universal Pictures’ wraps. Even 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 and grooving to “Little” Stevie Wonder’s timeless, 1963 track, “Fingertips – Part 2.”
“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 “Little Stevie” is drowned out to a low, deathly groan when the power’s cut. 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.
At “Fingerprints” builds to a screaming crescendo, snakes blink on old reel film, and E.T. echoes reverberate as a small, slimy claw reaches out, fingers curled into a loose fist. A red cowboy suited Steven Yeun stares up at the unidentified object occupying the great blue above. Nope, hidden code in its title or not, builds a heap of hype without revealing what actually lies in the skies.
Nope is scheduled for the big screen 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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