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Scariest Things Review: NOPE (2022)


We’ve all been waiting patiently for the new work by masterful filmmaker Jordan Peele. He has yet to disappoint with his previous cinematic efforts and continues to push a rather visionary envelope. Shrouded in years of mystery comes another enthralling horror entry with NOPE.

As we’ve already previously noted, UFO films are usually mostly in the science fiction camp, with maybe a toe in the horror genre. Trying to find the ones that firmly place two feet over into the horror side is no easy feat. NOPE is that film that harmoniously brings these camps together.

ATMOSfx! Woo!

Mike’s Review:

★★★★.5 out of ★★★★★

The ultimate conceit in a UFO film is the UFO itself. Do you show it? Do you obscure it? Do you slowly tease it out throughout the course of the film? No matter your preference, the UFO and related space aliens have got to be exemplary. Crappy UFO and you’ve got yourself a crappy film. A great UFO? Well, you’ve entered the realm of Jordan Peele. 

Don’t let anyone tell you differently, but NOPE is a masterful cinematic undertaking that’s been undertaken by today’s most insightful director — who also happens to be at the top of his game. It’s rare to see a film like NOPE. One that’s operating on all cylinders and delivers in nearly every possible category. 

While NOPE is an exceptionally unique story, it’s hard to not draw out clear comparisons with Close Encounters. The big difference? The horror. There are actually horrifying elements in NOPE. The film is packed with ample jump scares, but it also contained a fascinating, if not a pinch unclear, parallel story. By operating a story on multiple levels across several time frames the audience is always off balance and uncertain about the veracity of what’s being laid before them.

While Close Encounters dealt with one man’s madness and frustration with the need to disclose UFO encounters and not have people him, NOPE is very a very different sentiment with a decidedly modern tone. Thanks to decades of passive exposure to Ancient Aliens, Chariots of the Gods, and a general acceptance that aliens are indeed real, each character willingly understands and welcomes each other’s space alien encounter story. 

Where NOPE really resonates is the near-perfect acting, writing, and dialogue. Each scene is punctuated with exact character motivations and, thanks to Jordan Peele’s past, hysterical comedic timing. There are no wasted characters and there is certainly not a wasted exchange in the two-hour and 15 minute run time. Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, and Steven Yeun are one of the most thoughtful quartets that the world of horror has ever seen. 

If you’re looking for a repeat of Us or Get Out you’ll need to look elsewhere. NOPE is its own vision in a very singular universe. Sure all the Peele-esque qualities are on display, but NOPE marches to the beat of its own drummer. Most importantly, NOPE is a near-perfect UFO film. Now, 45 years ago, we were treated to an exquisite Spielbergian fete, but NOPE has been able to take this Sci-Fi accomplishment, add a very definite horror ingredient, and tell a unique story that’s not quite ever been told. Whatever you do this summer, make sure you say “yes” to NOPE!

Emerald (Keke Palmer) and O.J. (Daniel Kaluuya) shop for equipment to capture a UFO sighting in Nope

Eric’s Review:
★★★★.5 out of ★★★★★

It rather feels appropriate to respond to a film named Nope in the affirmative.

Has Jordan Peele cemented himself as one of the great genre directors of this new golden age?

Yep.

Is it important for studios like Universal to support original concepts and bold creativity when looking to fund science fiction and horror films?

Yep.

Is Nope an intellectually challenging film? Is it entertaining and fun? Should I go see this movie?

Yep. Yep. and Yep.

Is it a perfect movie?

Nope. I think the third act played a bit long, but the movie is really good.

It is remarkable how Jordan Peele was able to deliver a product that felt both epic and intimate at the same time. Epic in the scale of the landscapes and skyscapes around Santa Clarita. Epic in the audacity of the tricks that Peele has up his sleeve in his storytelling. What you think you know is not what is going on.

It is intimate in that this is largely a family story, that of the brother and sister duo of O.J. (Kaluuya) and Emerald (Palmer) Heywood. Pops Heywood (The always great Keith David) is the first victim of the strange happenings around the family ranch, and the fun contrast of the spunky, impulsive Emerald and the chill, laconic O.J. plays well for both narrative and humor. They behave like siblings, and their contrast is delightful. There’s tension, but it’s not overplayed. There’s love, but it’s not cloying.

Peele infuses lots of little moments that get huge laughs. Not punchlines or quips, but background reactions and behavioral ticks. You get laughs at unexpected times, but JUST when it’s most appropriate at the same time. The script also is a show it, don’t tell it screenplay that doesn’t give much in the way of exposition or explanation. This may leave some audience members a little perplexed, but this is so rewarding in that it allows you to piece together some of the story for yourself. The main story thread is easy enough to follow, but I think repeat watching will be necessary to catch all the small details, and there are a ton of them.

Mike is right that the wraparound story involving showman Jupe Park (Yeun) is a bit of a conundrum. It is traumatizing and dramatic and set up to be a central anchor to the film, but I had a hard time attaching it to the main storyline. I would be curious to get Peele’s perspective on this side story.

Angel (Brandon Perea) and Antlers (Michael Wincott) use old-school recording equipment in Nope.

A piece of advice, film-goers. This movie was shot in IMAX. If you can see it in an IMAX theater, do it. The visuals are stunning. The score and sound environment are jaw-dropping. See it with a big crowd in a theater as big as you can. This is one of those types of movies that will benefit from the biggest sound and light show that you can find.

Like many UFO stories, a lot of the stories involve the “prove it” trope central to validating the claims of witnesses. In Nope, the characters refer to it as the “Oprah Shot”. Get a good image of what’s out there, and you’ll get to be on Oprah! It is that desire to see with your own eyes and capture that proof for posterity that is central to these kinds of stories. I must know! I need to know! Peele tantalizes you with the hide-and-seek mystery, and boy is the answer a doozy!

You will find that as opposed to the mantra of the original The Thing from Another World, the reaction is not “Watch the Skies!” but instead is a determined desire to just turn and look away. Nope. Not gonna look. Ain’t nothin’ good gonna come from that. You can have your Oprah shot.

Nope is Rated R for violence and language. It’s frightening at times, but I think this is a great gateway film for film buffs who are not capital H horror fans. Much like Get Out was, this will have broad audience appeal.

Jupe Park (Steven Yuen) is a cowboy circus showman in Nope (2022)

Here’s the final trailer. Believe it or not, it doesn’t contain that much in the way of spoilers, but it does give you the skeleton of the story. In fact, it’s pretty packed with some pretty cool red herrings. This movie would be pretty safe for most teens.

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