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6/24/2022 • 4 min read
Horror and science-fiction are deeply connected. Science fiction is all about humanity exploring the boundaries of what we know. Naturally, those explorations can be terrifying. Some of the greatest science-fiction movies in history are explicitly horror movies, such as ALIEN, while other landmarks like 2001 and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS have undeniably scary undercurrents. Even a family movie like Steven Spielberg’s E.T. has horror baked into its DNA.
Jordan Peele has riffed on the efforts of other filmmakers even as he has developed his own distinctive filmmaking voice. Now, with the new movie NOPE, he plays on Steven Spielberg‘s legacy. While initially mysterious, we now know that NOPE is a movie about an encounter with some sort of vessel from space, and presumably the creatures it carries.
In other words, NOPE is a big UFO movie. That puts it right at the nexus points between sci-fi and horror, and after what we saw Jordan Peele create with both GET OUT and US, that seems like the perfect place for the filmmaker to be working.
NOPE is also created very much with the big screen in mind. “I wrote it in a time when we were a little bit worried about the future of cinema,” Peele said. “So the first thing I knew is I wanted to create a spectacle. I wanted to create something that the audience would have to come see.”
Science fiction and “spectacle” often go hand in hand at the movies, and so, as he says, Peele "set my sights on the great American UFO story." And the relationship between arresting ideas and images is a significant part of the movie itself. NOPE "deals with spectacle and the good and bad that come from this idea of attention."
Part of what Peele seems to be talking about with the good and bad that comes from paying attention is a line in the latest trailer, above, that says "I don't think they'd take you if you don't look at it." We mentioned Peele honoring Spielberg at the beginning of this article. The idea of paying a price for looking at something goes back to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. "Don't look at it, Marion!" screams Indy as the Ark is opened, unleashing forces that destroy anyone who sees them.
Problems is that the characters in NOPE seem to want to see the aliens. Their hopes are all pinned on capturing images that no one else has ever been able to get. All of which sounds kind of like Peele's own goal. "Write what you know," they say. A direct connection between the real world and Peele's nightmarish visions is part of what makes his movies resound with audiences. Now he's pulling from his own filmmaking experience, and from our collective idea of what going to the movies is all about.
All images courtesy of Universal Pictures.
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