The night is upon us! The finale of our haunted Halloween Countdown, 2022, features two very different productions. We start with summer’s super, sinister hit.
The 2022 hit film features a pair of animal-wrangling siblings, a goofy tech guy, an old-school cinematographer, and the troubled manager of a roadside attraction. This disparate adult Scooby gang becomes embroiled in an otherworldly mystery out in the California desert.
It’s a little reminiscent of Spielberg, except you don’t want to look up in awe at the sky.
Cast and Crew
Director and Writer: Jordan Peele
Daniel Kaluuya as Otis “OJ” Haywood, Jr.
Keke Palmer as Emerald Haywood
Brandon Perea as Angel Torres
Michael Wincott as Antlers Holst
Steven Yeun as Ricky “Jupe” Park
Wrenn Schmidt as Amber Park
Keith David as Otis Haywood Sr.
Devon Graye as Ryder Muybridge
Terry Notary as Gordy
Barbie Ferreira as Nessie
Donna Mills as Bonnie Clayton
Osgood “Oz” Perkins as director*
Eddie Jemison as Buster
Jacob Kim as Young Ricky Park
Sophia Coto as Mary Jo Elliott
Lincoln Lambert, Pierce Kang, Roman Gross as Park children
Alex Hyde-White as Grizz
Hetty Chang as Hetty Chang
Ryan W. Garcia as Sheriff Reyes
*The son of Anthony Perkins, Osgood is an indie director in real life.
A pair of animal-wrangling siblings, a goofy tech guy, an old-school cameraman, and the troubled manager of a roadside attraction become embroiled in an otherworldly mystery out in the California desert.
Those trying to uncover the solution ahead of our protagonists will also find themselves wondering what genre Peele has made this time. Is this an alien invasion film, a neo-monster movie, or a Twilight Zonesque message movie?
The engaging and truly bizarre mystery notwithstanding, the film works due to its deft direction and complex, perfectly cast characters. The interplay between Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as adult brother and sister trying to keep the business afloat feels authentic. Palmer, whose character spends a fair bit of the movie lit up, gets to shine finally in a way most horror-movie last girls would envy. Brandon Perea works as the oddball millennial techie, an entertaining blend of arrogant, technically brilliant, and intellectually shallow. The most quietly unsettling performance goes to Steven Yeun as “Jupe,” a troubled former child star and roadside cowboy. Of the film’s heroes, only Michael Wincott’s cinematographer feels underdeveloped. I wouldn’t want this film to run any longer, but I did feel that, given his importance to the finale, it might have been nice to know something more about him.
Minor points, to be certain:
I found the chapter titles based on the animal’s names fairly pointless or, at least, whatever point they are supposed to make doesn’t strike me as worth interfering with the film’s flow.
I wouldn’t want this film to run any longer, but I did feel that, given his importance to the finale, it might have been nice to know a little more about Michael Wincott’s character. Of our film’s heroes, he is least developed.
Originality: 4/6 Nope takes a once-familiar SF/horror genre and recreates it with a contemporary and often subversive sensibility. A mystery in an isolated location turns out to be a monster, though of a highly unusual breed. Our heroes band together to discovery and exploit the creature’s obligatory weakness. The genre was in its heyday in the 50s and Spielberg reinvented it in the 70s and 80s. This film owes a debt to both incarnations. However, it takes the tropes of the genre (and so many other things) in unexpected and original directions.
Effects: 6/6 The blend of practical effects and CGI is perfect. While I knew that the effects in the sky had to be CGI, they look real. I missed, until I read about the film, how many other visuals had been created artificially.
Production: 6/6 Brilliantly filmed – in IMAX.
Acting: 6/6 Peele has assembled an excellent cast, and they give perfect performances. It’s all the more remarkable when you consider how utterly bizarre some of the subject matter is.
Story: 5/6 The story begins with a homicidal chimpanzee and ends with…. something that might be unknowable. Nope manages to get from Point A to Point WTF? in a manner that makes twisted sense.
Emotional Response: 5/6
Overall: 6/6 The movie raises a number of questions concerning such things as our tendency to turn everything into superficial spectacle, our culture’s lust for fame and money at the expense of morality or even happiness, and the tendency for history to erase minority contributions to history. They’re raised—particularly those that concern the first theme—but the movie focuses, as it should, on the characters and plot. Despite the first act’s slow burn, the film should win viewers over on those elements, and on its own final-act spectacle.
In total, Nope receives 38/42
Peele and company filmed wherever possible on location, but you can visit a recreation of the Jupiter’s Claim roadside attraction at the Universal Studios Theme Park. The actual set stood in the Aqua Dulce desert.