‘Nope’: a genre-disrupting masterpiece

In “Nope,” Jordan Peele delivers another film that challenges genre conventions, infusing the horror and sci-fi genres with an intellectual, curious, and playful perspective that feels essential.

At its core, the film introduces us to Jean Jacket, an enigmatic cosmic presence that challenges our very understanding of the unknown. Peele’s distinctive approach to existential horror has solidified him as a standout director in the genre.

While horror often grapples with tangible threats, Peele transcends this, delving into the profound questions of existence. “Nope” exemplifies this exploration, offering a cosmic entity that defies all conventions. The design of Jean Jacket, a disc-shaped UFO, shatters our expectations, leaving us face-to-face with an otherworldly force.

Peele seamlessly weaves in real-world UFO references, blurring the line between fact and fiction. The film’s setting, a theme park in a UFO hotspot, amplifies the feeling of vulnerability and unease. This neo-western landscape heightens the sense of isolation, emphasizing the characters’ helplessness.

“Nope” challenges our innate need to categorize and understand. Peel encourages us to confront the fear of the unknown, to sit with the discomfort of existential uncertainty. As the characters grapple with their motivations, the film also critiques society’s obsession with spectacle and exploitation of the unknown.

In addition, I wanted to recommend this video essay in which the creator does an excellent job of delving into the deeper themes and concepts that Peele explores in this movie, particularly the idea of confronting the unknown and our existential uncertainties. It touches on how Peele approaches the concept of extraterrestrial life in a way that’s both unique and unsettling.

How do you think Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’ challenges traditional genre boundaries, and what impact does this have on our perception of horror as a genre?

3 thoughts on “‘Nope’: a genre-disrupting masterpiece

  1. Hey Stefanie, this is an excellent analysis. I especially like your comments on existential horror in Nope. Peele does a great job of keeping Jean Jacket an unexplained entity in the film. As a result, Jean Jacket relates with H.P Lovecraft’s ideas on horror: “The oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown.” Most horror movies become stale after the villain’s mysteries are revealed, such as Freddy Kruger in Nightmare on Elm Street. But even in the film’s conclusion, Jean Jacket remains a mystery. The creature shifts its body’s structure several times, confusing and disturbing the audience. Therefore, while Nope is a Western, Sci-fi, and Horror, its horror elements are particularly effective at invoking fear and uncertainty.

  2. Hey Stefanie, I strongly agree with your point that Nope challenges traditional genre boundaries, and I think instead of two, Nope actually adopted genre mixing of three kinds: horror, sci-fi, and Western.
    Horror films would definitely be seen as the most obvious and prominent genre it belongs to, with different genre conventions utilized to create suspense and horrifying effects on viewers’ emotions. With its opening scene having a dangling old hand stirring coffee, the overall mood of the film is set as “mysterious” and even a bit “scary”. Before the truth is revealed, the suspense was embedded in conventions such as distant sound of screaming from the sky, the UFO-like monster (serving as a character convention that most horror films have), blood flowing down from the window (genre iconography) and sudden drop of the fake horse sculpture. The narration brought up several questions to further the plot development, which kept uncertain and unanswered until almost the end of the story, such as “What killed OJ’s father?” “The unnatural thing in the sky is really a UFO or a monster?” The overall tonality of the film, especially the one during the scene when OJ went outside of house to seek for Ghost and saw the spectacle, is dark, depressive and gloomy, striking the internal fear and unease of the viewers. We can also see very familiar conventions used as we saw in other horror movies: the light in horse stable turns on and off by itself, though it’s explained later that it is actually done by human; the monitoring camera is blocked just on time to become unable to record anything important; the disconnected signal and electricity that indicate something unnatural is around… Moreover, many genre-specific techniques are used: the shots of Gordy’s killing at first was blackened, leaving only the sound on frame, demonstrating the violent actions without bloody scenes; after that, the filmmaker uses a long take of mobile camera moving from outside towards the stage, with the tracking shot tracing the source of the sound (here is the murdering behaviors of Gordy) in order to introduce to the actual killing, simulating the point of view of the audience trying to find out what happened according to the sound.
    This film also embodies conventions of sci-fi and Western films, making it into a masterpiece of mixing genres. The unknown creature was identified as a UFO at first, a very symbolic figure in sci-fi which people are familiar with and always trying to find more about. The director breaks this bias by finally showing it as a carnivore instead, raising surprises within the viewers. The use of technology to trace and defeat the monster during the climax is also conventional to science fiction films. This film is also very Western because it takes place in the Western part of U.S., with both male and female protagonists being the character conventions as cowboys and cowgirls. Genre iconology appears as the setting is in a horse ranch, with the whole film embodied within Western history. What’s more is a detail in the props, which at the beginning OJ uses flip phone and his sister uses touch screen phones, indicating their separated characteristics, with OJ being conservative and steady and Em being adventurous and modern, underlining a conventional Western film theme: the clash between modern and Western style of life.

  3. Excellent analysis, Stefanie. Your characterization and analysis of Jordan Peele’s unique style of existential horror accurately display his desire to continuously break genre conventions and highlight new, innovative techniques for making horror films. Fundamentally, the blend between the introduction of Jean Jacket and how it coincides with confronting our fear of the unknown and the core critiques of society’s unhealthy desire to pursue spectacle displays how Peele was able to connect these central themes to the narrative devices which directly challenged the standard conventions of the horror genre.

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