Jordan Peele’s third horror film puts the audience in the hot seat with its heavy themes and expert composition.
My three-word review for Jordan Peele’s Nope: See this movie.
My six-word review: SEE THIS MOVIE RIGHT F**KING NOW.
I will be upfront and say I really disliked Us. I thought it was a very well-shot film that showed its hand way too early and far too often for my taste. While I loved the concept up until the third act, I thought that it didn’t recapture the spark of Get Out and how that film reveled in the suspense and the mystery of it all.
But Nope does dwell on the atmosphere of the unknown, it has the mystery pumping through the film’s veins and giving it the lifeblood to hook you and keep you glued to your seat. So, when I say Nope is by and large the best of the three films, trust me on this one. On all fronts, it is a masterpiece, and it left me wanting more as I sat stunned in the theatre over the course of the credits.
Nope follows the Haywood siblings: the pragmatic, skilled & softspoken Otis Jr., or “OJ”, (played by Daniel Kaluuya), and the jack of all trades charmer Emerald (Keke Palmer). Disillusioned by Hollywood and the horse training business inherited from their father, the brother and sister become aware of the unidentified flying object skulking around the isolated mountain range their ranch is in, and the duo endeavor to be the first people to record it.
That’s about as much of the plot I can tell you without ruining the film, so let’s talk about our leads. I’m sure Keke Palmer’s going to be getting a lot of love given she is the film’s main source of levity, delivering an incredibly funny performance. But who I really enjoyed was Daniel Kaluuya. He plays the demure and tired OJ with a strong, silent delivery that is carried through his eyes. He’s got this one-of-a-kind on-screen presence, playing a character whose youth belies the amount of struggle and misery he’s had to go through. His onscreen chemistry with Palmer brings us a stellar portrayal of siblings who, despite all their differences and disagreements, have an undoubted and powerful love for each other.
Steven Yeun is incredibly charismatic as former child star Ricky “Jupe” Park, as is Brandon Perea’s techie Angel Torres who both make up the small supporting cast. Michael Wincott’s cinematographer Holst is the dark horse of the production who delivers a gravelly and memorable performance despite his short time on screen.
Besides Kaluuya’s stellar performance, his time on screen encapsulates how good Peele’s direction and framing of his actors is. Thanks to Hoyte Van Hoytema (regular cinematographer to directorial darling Christopher Nolan), we get plenty of dynamic movement with an unearthly smoothness. There are many strong, deft camera pans that follow the movement of characters and give you borderline point-of-view shots that are wholly unique to this film. Shots in this film pull from a gamut of references to the cinematic canon, ranging from more conventional science fiction and horror like Close Encounters, Fire in the Sky, andCloverfield to even one peculiar but fun reference to the anime film Akira (no, seriously!).
Peele doesn’t have just a masterful control of the camera, but the lighting and coloring as well. Palette-wise, lush black and rich dark blues make up most of the film’s nighttime shots, so try to see this in a Dolby Cinema or IMAX theatre because the film will benefit from that. Pair all of this with a triumphant and masterfully crafted soundtrack, and I genuinely can’t find a thing about this movie I dislike.
Truly, everything in Nope is deliberate and meticulously orchestrated. Everything down to the smallest one-off sight gag from early on being reincorporated in the finale is ingeniously planned down to the second, a hallmark of how he is a sniper with his films: only precision shots that leave you floored.
Fair warning, I will be discussing the film’s themes here, so skip to the Bottom Line if you want to go in blind. Reader discretion is advised.
Beyond its perfectly set-up story, Nope masterfully explores the grotesqueries of cinematic exploitation. The whole film makes you really ponder about who suffers to bolster our demanding and insatiable film industry, mainly through the use of screen animals.
When I say the “Gordy” segment of the film had me clutching the arms of my seat in the cinema, I don’t say that with an ounce of exaggeration. I cannot overstate how powerfully this film delves into the notions of spectacle coming at the cost of not only our animal companions, but our humanity as well, and the fact that the film’s villain is so expertly tangled into this strain of thought is what astounds me the most.
Theme talk ends here.
Bottom Line: A film whose runtime is put to perfect use, capped off with a finale that will leave you breathless and astounded by how Peele composes a story about family, our egos, and the creation of movies themselves. If it isn’t the best horror film of the year, Jordan Peele’s Nope definitely has some of the most gut-wrenchingly terrifying scenes in horror this year. Run to the theatre and watch this expeditiously– you won’t be disappointed.
Art and Pain: A Look into the World of ‘Allegoria’ (2022)
No, an artist doesn’t have to suffer, but we remember those who did and do struggle so much more than those who don’t. Take, for example, Vincent van Gogh, whose final words were “The sadness will last forever.” These words lead us into the anthology film Allegoria (2022), written, produced, and directed by Spider One, in which several artists fight against their fatal flaws and the forces of evil.
The movie shows segments of disparate artists’ lives. There are actors, musicians, a painter, a writer, and a sculptor. On the surface, their stories are connected only by the theme of pursuing their craft. As the film progresses, we see interlacing threads that weave them together, such as a painting, a conversation, a desire. The main connection is the presence of evil, of course, making this a horror film. The gore and unease amplify the horror, and while they are abundant, Allegoria doesn’t hinge on the obvious scares. Instead, it focuses on the ramifications of internal fear.
There are many common fears experienced by artists of all sorts, including imposter syndrome, not being able to support oneself, selling out, and not being understood. As any creator knows, these experiences can halt our work, can stifle our creativity, and can make us want to quit. But for most determined artists, the desire to create is greater than the fear of failure. The artists in Allegoria face these fears quite literally, as they manifest in physical form. How can, say, insecurity be represented physically? By an aggressively instigating, sufficiently creepy person in hellish makeup and costume, of course.
Spider One has successfully completed his first feature film (and directed nine shorts), but most of the creatives in Allegoria are not so lucky as to have a finished product. The writer/producer/director is not so confident in his work that he is never plagued by fear, according to an interview with Portalville Podcast, and we can therefore assume that some level of projection is present in Allegoria. Having a personal connection to one’s art shows in obvious ways: a passion project is often more enjoyable than one produced simply for a paycheck. The cast and crew have certainly experienced the anxieties they present on the screen, giving the film a feeling of authenticity.
Suffering is an essential part of the human experience, but is it essential to the artist’s experience? To an extent, yes, because work that resonates comes from lived experience, but it is not mandatory. Requiring anyone to suffer is cruel, and moreover, requiring suffering for a better experience in consuming art is selfish. So why are we so drawn to evocative art? It’s a complex question that doesn’t have a straight answer, especially considering everyone’s different experiences and preferences. Most can agree, however, that powerful art makes us feel. To paraphrase the sculptor Ivy in one scene, good art takes an object, turns it into a feeling, and turns that feeling into a visceral reaction. Allegoria’s success, much like all horror movies, depends on eliciting a visceral reaction. It deftly uses gore, dread, and dialogue to show that something is not right in these artists’ lives.
My favorite segment of the film centers on the painter Marcus. He’s an unlikeable protagonist, openly disparaging other art forms such as acting, and he is also pretentious, looking down on his agent for not knowing about Jacob Isaacszoon van Swanenburg’s painting “The Harrowing of Hell.” As he fights against the clock to finish a piece, Marcus deals with the annoyances of forced social interaction. A creator myself, I understand his short temper with interruptions, and I can’t say that I’ve never wanted to get totally immersed in my work and shut out the world. This segment of the film also includes my favorite shot, which I won’t spoil for you.
Allegoria is a great representation of the misfortune of creativity. Those who are cursed with it often suffer for their art. That suffering is not necessary, but I’d say it is felt by the majority of artists. Through physical manifestations of their anxieties, the depicted creators face evil forces. But is it truly evil, or is it simply an allegory?
REVIEW: ‘They/Them’ is a Problematic Yes/No
This movie needs a ton of trigger warnings: homophobia, transphobia, sexual harassment, animal cruelty, and aversion therapy.
When I first heard about They/Them I was incredibly nervous for it to come out. While it’s not new to have nonbinary characters in horror films, we rarely get such explicit representation. I expected this film to either be a radical example of queer representation and catharsis or completely off the mark. I was especially wary because of the conversion camp setting. However, I felt like it was a mixed bag.
Let me start by saying that there are some genuinely upsetting moments, especially for those of us who can relate to the campers. There are many scenes where the characters share their motivations for being at the conversion camp, and while this helps us understand their motivations and watch their growth throughout the film, it can hit a little too close to home. There are also instances when transgender characters are outed and then misgendered. The movie obviously pulls heavily from Friday the 13th but lacks the pacing that made other slasher movies suspenseful. Furthermore, I would have liked to have felt more anxiety for the campers, to really emphasize how fucked up the conversion camp was. However, the actual violence we see against the campers is pretty upsetting. I would have rather the movie focus on the camp’s backward conception of gender roles rather than seeing outright violence against queer characters.
One thing I think They/Them got right was its characters. The campers are all likable and have their own plotlines, despite the movie having a bit of an ensemble cast. At some points, the characters do feel like caricatures of LGBTQ+ stereotypes, but this is done more for inside jokes to make those of us in the community laugh, rather than making a joke at our expense. Jordan, the main character, is very capable and confident. They are the nonbinary representation I was hoping for, even if they sometimes fall into the Gary/Mary Sue category.
Overall, I’m not sure if I can recommend this movie. Its final message is interesting, and preaches finding strength through community over violence. But for anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community, this movie might be difficult to watch. It’s nice to see representation, but the possibility of being triggered is very real in this movie. Although They/Them was quite funny at moments, it’s not very scary. I’d say this movie is enjoyable, but not worth the risk if you are sensitive to any of the triggers listed at the beginning.
They/Them is now streaming on Peacock.