If you know me personally or have had the displeasure of running into me at a bar after a few Vegas Bombs, you’ll know that I’m always talking about the big 3 directors that I believe ushered us into a horror renaissance several years ago. Those are Robert Eggers, Ari Aster, and Jordan Peele. Peele is perhaps the most commercially celebrated of the trio, making a name for himself as one half of the immensely popular skit duo Key and Peele. But in 2017 Peele shook the foundation of horror with his original, uncomfortable, and darkly humorous take on racial politics with his film Get Out. This film is wholly unique and showcased just how much Peele understood the horror genre, so much so that he won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, a rarity for scary movies. His follow-up, Us, continued his style of socio-political horror, though this time around I do think the themes may have gone over a lot more peoples’ heads, mine included. Regardless, it’s still a scary good time, and I have been eagerly awaiting to see what Peele brought to the table next.
You don’t always get to say this, but the wait was certainly worth it. Nope is a fantastically fun experience, harkening back to the summer blockbusters of yesteryear that managed to capture our curiosity and imagination. It’s a bit more straightforward than Peele’s past films, which is not a negative at all, even if its themes and message don’t come out as poignant. Still, it’s everything Peele is great at, bringing a perfect balance of humor and horror that’s a blast to watch from beginning to end.
Nope is best enjoyed knowing as little as possible, so I’ll do my best to talk about the film as vaguely as I can while still giving my takes on its presentation and themes. Try to avoid those trailers too if you can. What works the best here is the sense of wonder and uncertainty. That mantra of “the scariest thing is what you don’t see” gets thrown around a lot, but many times it doesn’t give the audience enough room to wonder or it just comes off as lazy. Not here though, as Peele understands how much to give and when to give it. The film is incredibly ominous in the way it plays with darkness, negative space, and the sheer implication that something is hiding just out of sight. This isn’t a very visceral or graphic film, yet it still manages to be one of the more terrifying films of the year because of its expert use of tension and suspense. When the horror the characters face eventually comes to light it’s not exactly scary, and I have a theory behind this which I’ll get to when I talk about the themes.
Every actor here brings a lot of humor and paranoia, from Get Out alumni Daniel Kaluuya, to Keke Palmer to Steven Yeun. I wouldn’t say the characters are as fleshed out as the ones from Peele’s previous films, but they are still suitable conduits to experience an unseen threat with. Kaluuya and Palmer are incredibly engaging as two siblings with differing views of their place in Hollywood, considering their family business as horse wranglers, like many other positions on a film set, are often exploited and undervalued. This is a bit of minor theme the film touches on, but there’s bigger ideas at play here as well.
So what is this film all about? What’s it trying to say? Well, I have a few theories. My biggest one is this is a reflection on our relationship with nature and the many ways people will exploit this. As humans we naturally gravitate towards the grand and the otherworldly, whether it be pondering over the existence of aliens to seeing a lion at the zoo. These things can be very delicate and when pushed too far, it can disrupt the balance of the pre established ecosystem. Just saying, there’s a reason why carnivals are moving away using live animals in their shows. There has to be a certain respect for what we don’t fully understand, and when that gets pushed the consequences can be less than pleasant. That’s why I think the climax plays out the way it does, and again without spoiling anything, it presents the threat in such a visually beautiful way that it reminds you how gorgeous nature can be if given the opportunity to flourish. Of course some habitats aren’t big enough for everyone to live peacefully and that’s ultimately what the film comes to. It’s definitely more pedestrian than his past work, which again is not a bad thing, although I do think the payoff isn’t as impactful as it could have been.
But even without a more nuanced theme, this is still one of the best original blockbuster films of recent years, likened to Spielberg’s work all those years ago. It’s such a well-rounded film with elements that compliment one another nicely. Peele made it a point to bring people back to the theaters, and I think he’s succeeded. If you’ve been looking for an exciting experience to justify spending your money to go to the movies, look no further.
Have you ever seen something so odd, so complex, you found it hard to put into words? For me, it’s Cocomelon, which I’m pretty sure is some type of government psyop. Nope is all about the unexplainable and the wonder behind it, so I wanted to come up with a cocktail with a variety of flavors that continues to change your perception of the drink over time. What I have is a smokey, sweet little cocktail that combines the distinct taste of mezcal with subtle but noticeable fruit flavors like mango and passion fruit, slight floral notes, a bit of vanilla, and a bubbly body made of champagne. To top it off, it comes with an ominous cloud hiding something secret inside it.
It’s sugar. The secret is more sugar. Which you can drop into the drink itself for added sweetness.
- 1oz mezcal
- 1oz Hpnotiq
- 1/2oz creme de violette
- 1/2oz vanilla syrup
- Top: Champagne
- Garnish: Blue cotton candy
- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir to chill.
- Strain into coup glass.
- Top with champagne.
- Garnish with blue cotton candy cloud.