The rest of the cast features Steven Yuen as Jupe, a barker who runs an alien-based carnival of sorts out in the same middle of nowhere the Haywoods have their ranch, and Angel (Brandon Perea), a techie specializing in surveillance equipment he sells out of a Best Buy clone called “Ray’s.” Jupe is the survivor of a horrific freak accident on a television show that had the first use of a certain type of animal. Angel is hired to install fancy cameras on the Haywood ranch so that Otis and Emerald can be the first to capture “the Oprah shot” of a specific event I won’t reveal. All this focus on being the first to do something! Again, no detail is completely extra in a Jordan Peele movie.
With “Nope,” Peele continues to explore and repeat certain elements of his prior works. Like “Us,” there’s a Bible quote that may be another breadcrumb to follow. This time it’s Nahum 3:6, which says “I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle.” There’s also a focus on animals, with horses playing a major role here. Unlike the deer in “Get Out” and the rabbits in “Us,” symbols of creatures being preyed upon, Peele reverses the power dynamic by turning into prey the most dangerous predator of all. There’s also the unusual use of an inanimate object; in “Us” it was scissors, in “Nope” it’s a fake horse and those weird, swaying air-filled things every used car dealer seems to have.
“Nope” is not as good as “Get Out” or “Us,” but it’s definitely Peele’s creepiest movie. He’s always been more Rod Serling than Rob Zombie, and that’s most evident here. There’s humor to be had in the minority characters’ reactions to horror (yes, they say “nope” the way most people would say “oh HELL NAW!”), but the director really leans into Hitchcock’s tenet about suspense vs. surprise. The wait for something awful to happen is always worse than when it does. Additionally, Peele remains a master of misdirection, offering fleeting glimpses of something that’s amiss or keeping the most brutal violence just beyond our view. The sound mix on this is aces, and I’ll never tire of horror movies that center on Black protagonists who are more than just fodder for whatever’s killing everybody.