A drawing of a horror film by Peele shows a horse floating in mid-air.
Illustration by Alex Suarez, Columbia College Chicago

‘NOPE’ Will Let Jordan Peele Build on the Themes He’s Known For — With Perhaps a Few Surprises

The horror movie could further solidify his reputation as a filmmaker.

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A drawing of a horror film by Peele shows a horse floating in mid-air.
Illustration by Alex Suarez, Columbia College Chicago

The horror movie could further solidify his reputation as a filmmaker.

Following the success of his previous films, Jordan Peele’s upcoming horror flick “NOPE” has audiences waiting in anticipation. Peele is known for including deeper meanings in films such as “Get Out” and “US,” conjuring up eerie soundtracks, and never shying away from a little bit of comedy in his scary movies. With more information about the plot of “NOPE” being released in every new interview and trailer, it is evident the film already has some similarities with its predecessors.

Peele’s Career

Peele got his start in comedy, with his most notable projects being five seasons on sketch comedy series “MADtv” and later, his show “Key and Peele.” Due to his association with more humorous roles, many were shocked when Peele transitioned to horror writing and directing. But it quickly became clear that horror was the ideal format for him when he made his directorial debut with “Get Out”; audiences raved about the film and Peele received critical acclaim. He was no one-hit-wonder, though, as his second film, “US,” followed in his first film’s footsteps and solidified the director’s new place as a notable name in horror. The upcoming film “NOPE,” set to release on July 22, has much to live up to yet is projected to become another iconic movie.

Themes

The two previous Peele films touch on the theme of “family” in very different ways. 2017’s “Get Out” centers around Black protagonist Chris’ first meeting with his white girlfriend’s family. The family seems normal and very accepting of the relationship until dark and terrifying intentions come to light. The twist flips the traditional horror movie narrative of monsters and villains on its head, forcing viewers to see societal evils and misguided standards through the antagonistic Armitage family. Peele uses this average family dynamic to his advantage, exposing the unforeseen evil of the characters in order to create something truly horrifying.

Peele’s second movie, “US,” also plays with family dynamics, placing a generally normal family against vengeful, creepy and uncivilized versions of themselves. This 2019 film stands out by providing two versions of every main or supporting character, using the relationships between them to hint at society’s wrongs. The movie touches on the “underground world” within our lives, one built on exploitation.

By using family as a central theme in his films, Peele creates situations that resonate with audiences. “NOPE” has not revealed much in terms of its characters, however, it is known that the setting is a family-owned horse ranch in California. The film will feature some returning actors, as well as new additions to the Peele-cinematic universe.

However, the director is also broadening his scope. The upcoming film appears to be Peele’s first plot to contain otherworldly or non-human villains, leaving audiences curious about how the recurring theme of “family” will be used. Will the film feature family dynamics similar to “Get Out” and “US,” or will “NOPE” go in new directions? How will the themes of tradition and loyalty intertwine with the scary scenes? And furthermore, will Peele even include the deeper messages viewers are used to, or should he subvert expectations?

What We Know of ‘NOPE’

Peele has masterfully woven hidden meanings into the plots of his previous films, primarily focusing on class and race in both explicit and more subtle ways. Peele is unafraid to make big statements in his work and he uses these messages to both enrich his art and motivate his projects. Early trailers for “NOPE” perfectly balance the need to draw in the viewer without giving away too much, offering the audience clues about what what the movie will be about while leaving plenty to be revealed. Because of this ambiguity, no one knows what types of messages may be hidden in the plot.

However, the final version of the trailer, which was recently released, gives more context to the plot, both uncovering more about the film (including the presence of extraterrestrial life) while leaving much to be answered. As Peele’s success and skill grew, so did his budget. However, the final trailer indicates that Peele’s film will still be eerie, complemented by unsettling music and humor. Even the title of the film, “NOPE,” is abrupt and funny, showing that Peele hasn’t entirely left his comedic career in the past. His ability to mix genres makes for truly impressive directing, blending different tones while still scaring audiences senseless.

Expectations

Following the success of his other films, Peele is in both a very good position and an incredibly risky one. On the one hand, he has proven his abilities, providing audiences with refreshing plotlines and changing the expectations for horror movies forever. His very specific directorial “fingerprint” is what makes him such an accomplished filmmaker; however, his consistent themes and widespread success have given him extremely high expectations to live up to. Peele’s new film must include elements of his previous work in an inventive way in order to give viewers what they expect and want while keeping them on their toes.

Peele is clearly up for the challenge with this new film, with many people expecting a successful opening weekend. Catching up on Peele’s previous movies will be easy as they are enthralling, comedic, and will have you jumping out of your seat at times. After gaining a sense of the genius of Peele’s work, catch “NOPE” in theaters on July 22 — it may just have you repeating the title over and over. This new film by Peele is one no one will want to miss.

Writer Profile

Vanessa Rivera

James Madison University
Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication (WRTC) and a minor in Creative Writing

Vanessa is a writing, rhetoric and technical communication major and creative writing minor at James Madison University in Virginia. When she’s not reading and writing she loves baking and making long Spotify playlists.

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