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Yes, Jordan Peele has another winner with ‘Nope’




Rated R. At AMC Boston Common, Regal Fenway, AMC South Bay and suburban theaters.

Grade B+

A tasty “creature feature,” even if some of its details don’t add up, “Nope” arrives, reinforcing the sense that writer-director Jordan Peele is the new Roger Corman, if not the new Rod Serling.

Lacking most of the up front racial/political elements of “Get Out” and “Us,” “Nope” tells the film industry-related story of the Haywood family, whose roots reach back to the first animated images of modern cinema, a Black jockey astride a horse. Thus begins Haywood’s Hollywood Horses, a Los Angeles business, supplying horses to the film industry for decades. Business is tough for the Haywood family. Patriarch Otis Haywood (the venerable Keith David) and son OJ (Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”) run things from their perch up in the mountains (the setting recalls Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog”).

That perch is a horse ranch and a ranch house in the Agua Dulce desert of northern Los Angeles with a winding road leading up to it. A rain of household items, seemingly from a passing plane hits the ranch, making things even more dire for the Haywoods. OJ is reunited with his free-spirited sister Emerald Haywood (an animated Keke Palmer). Together, they vaguely address their estrangement issues and take some of their horses to sell to a nearby tourist attraction called Jupiter’s Claim, a Wild West theme park owned and run by former child actor Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yuen).

In a related narrative, we learn of an infamous case of a chimpanzee run amok on the set of a TV sitcom in which Ricky was a child cast member. The scenes involving the killer chimp are arguably more terrifying than those involving Peele’s primary story, which causes a bit of dissonance. At first, the frightening things happening at the Haywood ranch appear to involve a UFO (that the government has arbitrarily changed the term UFO to UAP, meaning “unexplained aerial phenomenon” is amusingly addressed).We get a cloud that does not move, an all-white horse named Ghost that goes running in fear toward a distant gulch, a tech prodigy named Angel Flores (Brandon Perea) working at the currently shuttered Fry’s Electronics and Holst (Michael Wincott), a wrinkled and eccentric director of photography, who enjoys watching disturbing wild animal footage.

Shot on IMAX cameras by the prodigious Hoyte van Hoytema (“Dunkirk”) with atmospheric music by Peele regular Michael Abels (“Us”), “Nope” is perhaps the most beautifully shot “creature feature” you’ve ever seen. Many scenes involving horses feature thundering hooves and remind us of the big-screen glory of these creatures. If it is true that American studios took over Roger Corman’s business model and produced big-budget, B-movie blockbusters, “Nope” is a good example. If I say what indie horror film of the late 1950s “Nope” reminds me of, I will give too much away. “Nope,” which also recalls “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Signs,” is a climate-change, sci-fi/horror movie hybrid about a threat we cannot see that can swoop down from the clouds and be upon us in the wink of an eye. With his doleful eyes, Kaluuya is impressive as the film’s hero and its competing visual and emotional attraction. He is this creature’s match in more ways than one.

“Nope” contains profanity and disturbing and gruesome images.


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