by Rob DiCristino
Spoilers for Nope ahead.
“I stopped writing this movie about twenty times because I thought it was impossible,” said Jordan Peele while accepting his Oscar for writing Get Out. “I thought it wasn’t going to work. I thought no one would ever make this movie.” He was right. Known primarily as a sketch comedian and lacking any feature credits to his name, Peele took an incredible risk pitching a deeply personal, genre-bending horror opus that would test both his narrative craftsmanship and his tonal finesse. Even with the project greenlit, Peele was rightfully terrified: Few artists get it right the first time. Hell, most of them would trade vital organs for a shot at a hit on the fifth or sixth try. But Peele could feel Get Out in his bones. He was hungry. Inspired. And it paid off. Get Out was a towering achievement, one of the few films in recent memory to earn both rapturous critical acclaim and undeniable cultural ubiquity. Just like that, Peele was an auteur. A maestro. A master of horror. Imagine the pressure! Imagine capturing lightning in a bottle only for the world to beg you to do it again.
Whereas Get Out tackled racial injustice and Us took aim at class inequity, Nope’s clearest and most apparent target seems to be the exploitative practices of the entertainment industry. The Haywoods claim to be Hollywood royalty, descendants of the black jockey featured in Eadweard Muybridge’s “The Horse in Motion,” the oldest known example of a motion picture. It’s a cute story, most producers say, but it’s not quite enough to earn them a sustainable living. Park’s star is fading, as well, his acting career having been waylaid by a vicious chimpanzee attack on the set of a ‘90s sitcom. Only a small museum of mementos remains, an awkward conversation piece for Jupe’s A-list clients and a clear example of commodified trauma. This animal motif — specifically the idea that a wild, territorial animal can not truly ever be trained for performance — seems central to Nope’s overall themes. Chapter headings highlight the mysterious behavior of the Haywood horses, and the hovering entity itself is eventually revealed to be predatory and animalistic in nature.
Nope hits theaters this Friday.