Nope? Yup!

This may come as a shock to some people, but I did actually engage in non shark related activities during Shark Week. One of those activities was to see Nope in theatres with some friends. Ever since Get Out (2017), I have been incredibly excited to see Jordan Peele’s name attached to any horror movie, so I was really looking forward to this. Although I don’t know that anything he’s done so far will ever top Get Out, I still thoroughly enjoyed Nope.

Sorry, but there are spoilers ahead!

As a movie lover and someone who has studied film in school, I fell in love with this ode to cinema. It’s jam-packed with genres from horror, to sci-fi, to western. Plus, there’s the obvious connection to showbusiness in that all of the primary and secondary characters are, well, in showbusiness in some way or another. Everyone is trying to get their own version of the Oprah shot, even if that means putting their lives on the line. And, just like in his previous thought-provoking films, this is where Peele encourages his viewers to think about what they’re seeing on screen. Is it worth all of this death and destruction just to become famous?

But those aren’t the only nods to the entertainment industry in this complexly layered story. Even the monster of the film is a giant, floating reference to cinema. Right from the start, Jean Jacket’s square mouth is compared to a movie screen. This screen-shaped mouth is then used to consume actors, camera people, and audience members alike. And before we even truly learn what Jean Jacket is, Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun) refers to this alien as “The Viewers”. It may be a little on the nose, but personally I loved how over-the-top the association between Jean Jacket and cinema was.

Unfortunately, Jean Jacket was also my biggest disappointment in the film. When he unfurled into that kite-like final form, I just couldn’t take him seriously anymore. I’m not sure if the added squareness and fabric-like quality of his body was further meant to imitate the silver screen, but the alien just wasn’t scary or threatening anymore. As with any horror movie, the unseen is scarier than what you can see. When we don’t know what Jean Jacket is, what he looks like, or what he wants, he’s so much more terrifying until we have all the answers. So to see all of Jean Jacket killed the magic and the willing suspension of disbelief. Admittedly, I don’t think Peele could have topped the scene after Jean Jacket feeds and leaves a trail of screams in his wake as his victims are digested. After that delightfully horrifying moment, Jean Jacket was already as scary as he could get and the big reveal just dampened that.

As a movie monster, I felt that Gordy (Terry Notary) was much more effective. This story within a story was so well done that it could have worked as a stand-alone film. But within the larger story of Nope, it added essential backstory for the character of Jupe, but also served as a cautionary tale for what could happen with Jean Jacket. One of the reasons why I felt Gordy’s story was stronger was because the creative use of camera angles kept us from seeing everything that was happening. When we can only hear what Gordy is doing, or our view of him is obstructed, it’s far more unsettling than if he had simply killed everyone on screen for all the viewers to see.

But despite my love of the monsters in this film, it was Keke Palmer as Emerald Haywood who stole the show. This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I almost always prefer the monsters in horror movies. So to have a final girl who outshines both the humans and monsters is something special for me. I wanted her to succeed, and not just because that’s how horror films are supposed to be. Just as Daniel Kaluuya (as OJ Haywood) has now become a recurring actor in Peele’s work, I really hope we see more of Keke Palmer in future horror films from him as well.

Despite the disappointing final reveal, this is absolutely a film I would watch again. There’s so much going on that I’m sure there are extra details I’d pick up after a second watch-through. It even occurred to me after the credits started rolling that when Park’s kids prank the Haywoods, there are tells in that scene that make it obvious that Jean Jacket is not responsible. I would love to go through the film again and try to pick out other little details like that. I can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele comes out with next!

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