I just finished watching NOPE a science fiction horror film by Jordan Peele. I don’t normally watch horror films but I loved Peele’s Get Out and so I was excited to watch NOPE. Woah, was it good!
It follows a brother and sister who discover something frightening living in the skies above their California horse ranch. It swoops down from the clouds at the same time every day.
They go through various stages of reckoning with the situation.
First, they’re scared cause it’s really weird. Then they get excited – especially Keke Palmer’s character who sees it as an opportunity to capture the phenomenon on camera and possibly make a lot of money. She calls up a famous filmmaker to gauge his interest, but he brushes them off. Daniel Kaluuya’s character is more resistant to the idea anyway and wants them to just stay safe – which makes complete sense cause in the first scene of the movie he witnesses their father being killed by the excrement of this sky beast.
Giving a spoiler alert warning here! There’s a subplot involving an entrepreneurial guy who seems to own an amusement-type park in this mid-west town. He witnessed an incredibly traumatic event as a child actor – an on-set monkey actor murdered a whole cast of people right in front of him. For some reason the monkey spared him and it’s given him a belief that he’s chosen or special.
He tries to make money off almost everything and so it’s no surprise that he tries to make this alien-in-the-sky’s daily appearances into a sideshow of sorts. He thinks he’s immune from harm, or he has a death wish of some kind, but (spoiler alert) he is not spared from this beast’s feast and neither are his 40 guests.
Then Palmer and Kaluuya’s characters get a call from that filmmaker who now wants to capture this phenomenon after hearing about the 40+ people’s disappearance. Game on!
They get a few different cameras ready and set up, and they seem to get some amazing footage of the beast consuming a TMZ reporter – hah. But as their film shoot goes on – and the beast gets closer and closer to eating each one of them, the life and death struggle they’re engaged in overshadows any attempts at cinema.
I kept having this dizzying experience watching the film. I was in awe of the special effects that created this alien monster, admiring it even as I was terrified of it. (They have a particularly disturbing scene of what it looks like when you get eaten by the thing.) I was in awe of the thing, and so I also wanted the characters in the movie I was watching to get a great shot of this incredible monster for their movie. Hoping they’d capture it to share with other people. While also simultaneously not wanting them to die. And also realizing that I was watching a movie and the beast wasn’t even real. It was a trip.
If I’m searching for a deeper meaning in all of this I would say, real life is pretty freaky and the grit and effort required to face our fears, survive and do something of consequence is so great, and all this capturing of it for social media and movies is not the point. As evidenced by the TMZ reporter losing his life in the film because he’s more concerned with getting a photo than being saved.
Yet we continue to write, make movies, and tell stories like Peele has done here because it’s entertaining and unifying and we crave that as a species. Something the aliens may not ever understand. 😉