Nope (2022)


Jordan Peele


Daniel Kaluuya - OJ Haywood

Keke Palmer - Emerald “Em” Haywood

Steven Yeun - Ricky “Jupe” Park

Brandon Perea - Angel Torres

Michael Wincott - Antlers Holst

Keith David - Otis Haywood Sr.

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Western/Mystery/Science Fiction

Running Time - 131 Minutes


Residents in a lonely gulch of inland California bear witness to an uncanny, chilling discovery.


2022’s NOPE is Jordan Peele’s third directorial film in the horror genre, following the massive success of 2017’s GET OUT and the quieter success of 2019’s US. Unlike the more social and political commentaries of those two films, NOPE is less focused on that and more interested in a truthful look on the Hollywood industry and how people are changed because of it. Because of that, NOPE feels less like a horror film [even though aspects are there] and more like a Quentin Tarantino western-drama with aliens terrorizing a small California town. While audiences expecting more of what Peele had presented previously in his films might be disappointed, I like that NOPE stands out as something different from the rest of his filmography.

This will be a fairly spoiler-free review since the less you know about NOPE will benefit one’s viewing experience. But I thought the narrative was pretty great for the most part, with some wonderful dialogue and narrative beats that actually captured your interest. The Haywood siblings, OJ [who gets mocked for his initials by caucasian members of the Hollywood industry for obvious reasons] and Emerald are victims of an industry that uses them and spits them out. After their father is mysteriously taken away from them, the siblings struggle with making ends meet by being horse handlers for television and film. OJ is the quieter one, focused on business and feeling like he’s being judged by others in the industry for social and political reasons. OJ is still grappling with what happened to his father and wants answers. Emerald has a more outgoing personality, less interested in the animal handling of the industry and more interested in selling herself to anyone with power for a job in front of the camera. She’s a singer, dancer, actress and whatever else because she feels like she’s a star that refuses to be seen and respected for various reasons. The siblings bicker over their differences in how they approach Hollywood, but come together when strange things happen around them.

Other characters deal with the Hollywood industry in other ways. Ricky “Jupe” Park is a former sitcom child actor dealing with a massive trauma that had happened on the set of his show years ago. He runs a carnival as a way to get control over what happened to him, laughing away parodies and constant gossip about his past as a defense mechanism. Antlers Holst is a Hollywood cinematographer who doesn’t feel respected enough in the industry, wanting to capture something truly out there to make a name for himself. And while not part of the industry, retail worker Angel Torres gets caught up with the strange happenings that goes on because he wants something exciting in his life for a change.

The main horror aspect is the obvious UFO narrative that drives most of the film. While there are creepy moments and random jump scares at times, the film mostly plays it like a Steven Spielberg action/drama/comedy more focused on how the characters react and deal with the situation rather than the aliens terrorizing them [even though they do]. There’s probably not enough alien invasion action for some viewers, but NOPE would rather focus on the human elements of the situation rather than gore, terror and special effects. It brings characters together, giving audiences some nice bits of dialogue and interactions that are entertaining. It also reveals the true colors of other characters, which may or may not reap rewards their way. But if you’re expecting a MARS ATTACK kind of movie, this isn’t it.

What brings down the film for me are several things in terms of the screenplay. One, certain characters don’t get enough screen time to gain any depth. Certain characters at the end who played a key role didn’t really engage me because I barely knew anything about them. Two, some of the comedy takes one out of the terrifying situation. Where one should feel tense and creeped out a bit, these moments are drowned out by funny dialogue or jokes that destroy whatever horror Peele was going for.

And the main downer involved a pretty important character’s backstory that was so interesting, I wanted to see how it would all play out in current time. Unfortunately, the characters involved exit the film before the film’s final act, making this subplot questionable. It wasn’t until I left the theater that I realized that this subplot had no real resolution, making me wonder why even bother adding it to the film. It’s almost as if Peele was more focused on the UFO stuff and decided to just end this subplot earlier than one would expect. It’s too bad because I found this particular narrative element super engaging and nothing really came of it. Very disappointing.

As for the direction, Jordan Peele does a solid job with NOPE. The film is split into many chapters, but it never really ruins the flow or pacing of the movie. The special effects are handled well and the action moments are strongly presented.  And some of the jump scares worked on me, so nice job there. The real winner is the cinematography by Christopher Nolan collaborator, Hoyte van Hoytema. NOPE is a gorgeous looking movie, especially on an IMAX screen. Hoytema uses the locations and the vast, empty spaces of the Haywood ranch to their fullest potential, creating a visual arena where anything can happen. Do I think it’s Peele’s most exciting work as a director? Nope, pun intended. But it's solid visual masterwork by a confident filmmaker who knows what type of films he wants to make. And I have respect for anyone who could make Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” into a dark, nightmarish song during certain moments of the film.

The actors all do a great job. Daniel Kaluuya brings a quiet, stoic confidence as OJ Haywood. He’s your typical western hero, focused on the task at hand in order to save the day and answer the questions that have been haunting him. Steven Yeun is very good as Ricky “Jupe” Park, hiding the character’s trauma through smiles and confident body language, while showing vulnerability whenever the past begins to haunt him again. Brandon Perea brings some comic relief as Angel, bringing some levity and having nice rapport with Kaluuya and Keke Palmer. Michael Wincott brings a quiet intensity to Antlers Holst. But the show stealer is, without a doubt, Keke Palmer as Emerald Haywood. Palmer seems to be having a blast throughout, reciting the best dialogue, performing in the film’s best sequences, and just showing everyone how charismatic and talented she is. It’s about time she got some recognition for her talents because she’s a star. 


While not as good as 2017’s GET OUT, I found Jordan Peele’s NOPE to be slightly better than his previous film, US, due to the mostly successful handling of the movie’s ambition and scope. Less of a horror film and more of a sci-fi western, NOPE is a film about Hollywood and its troubling history when it comes to child actors and people of color. It’s a film that focuses on myths and gossip about the existence of UFOs. It’s a film that deals with how trauma changes people for better or for worse. There’s a strong narrative that’s sometimes hindered by a level of routine that could be seen as meandering at times, lack of depth for certain characters, and expendable subplots that make you feel cheated when they’re interestingly built up but not resolved in a satisfying way. But the direction, and especially the beautiful cinematography by frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator Hoyte van Hoytema, are solid. At times, Peele captures the anxiety and terror of the UFO situation that threatens the main characters in believable ways. And the acting is solid as expected, with a star stealing performance by Keke Palmer who outshines everyone around her due to her charisma and handling of funny dialogue that makes her a delight to watch. NOPE doesn’t totally come together as it should due to Peele sacrificing some of the stronger narrative beats to focus on the monster movie aspect of the story. But it’s a fun time, especially in theaters, and continues Peele’s streak in keeping me invested in what he has planned next for the horror genre.


3 Howls Outta 4


The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Dario Argento

Tony Musante - Sam Dalmas
Suzy Kendall - Julia
Enrico Maria Salerno - Inspector Morosini
Eva Renzi - Monica Ranieri
Umberto Raho - Alberto Ranieri
Renato Romano - Professor Carlo Dover
Giuseppe Castellano - Monti
Mario Adorf - Berto Consalvi

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Mystery/Giallo

Running Time - 96 Minutes

While walking home one evening, Sam Dalmas, an American writer living in Rome, witnesses a violent struggle between a young woman and a black-coated figure in an art gallery. Dalmas attempts to intervene but is caught between the gallery’s electronically operated glass doors, leaving the woman bleeding from knife wounds. Questioned by the police, the shocked author attempts to recall every detail regarding the incident. Convinced that there is an aspect of the crime he cannot recall, Dalmas begins his own investigation - putting himself and his girlfriend Julia in line as the killer’s potential victims.


I couldn’t tell you the last time I sat down and watched 1970’s THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. When it comes to legendary Italian director Dario Argento, I tend to go to my favorites like 1975’s DEEP RED, 1977’s SUSPIRIA, 1982’s TENEBRAE, 1985’s PHENOMENA and 1986’s OPERA if I need an Argento fix. But taking the time out to watch Argento’s directorial debut, I feel kind of bad for dismissing THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE for so long. It’s not one of my favorites in his filmography, but it’s a solid start for a director who would quickly find his stride for much of the 1970s and 1980s.

While not the first giallo film made, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE helped inspire other giallo movies that would follow due to how successful its narrative structure is. Unlike later Argento giallo films where situations would get a bit more elaborate and convoluted at times, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is a fairly straightforward, and pretty predictable, affair. Really an adaptation of Frederic Brown’s novel Screaming Mimi, the film is more plot driven than focused on visual style. The characters and the police procedural/investigation fuels much of the film, as the movie focuses on writer hero/witness Sam as she helps the police figure out the identity of the film’s killer, while his girlfriend Julia doesn’t really want anything to do with it and just wants Sam to focus on her instead. Sam struggles with his memories of the event he witnesses early in the film while being harassed by cops, goons and even the killer themself who mocks him and the police for not figuring it all out sooner.

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is really told through Sam’s point-of-view, as he’s an unreliable narrator of sorts as he tries to piece together the mystery as his memories slowly continue to change throughout the film. While some of the secondary characters may be a bit too eccentric for this type of film, which makes the movie campier and cheesier than it ought to be at times, the main players are all likable and interesting enough for the audience to care and follow them from beginning to end. Later Argento films would have crazier plots that end up being more memorable in the end, but the simple nature of his debut is refreshing as it’s nice to see where his style and vision started from and how much it grew from here.

While THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE inspired later giallo films, the film was heavily inspired by some of Mario Bava’s giallo films, as well as certain Alfred Hitchcock works. While this film takes influence from Bava’s giallo classics like BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, it’s really obvious how big of a fan Argento was of Hitchcock. A scene where Sam witnesses a crime while trapped between two windows is a slight variation of REAR WINDOW, as Sam is paralyzed between the two glass panes and can only watch the crime unfold. And there are several moments where PSYCHO’s influence is in full effect. One murder takes place within a small room, where the killer stabs their victim multiple times. The way it’s directed is how Hitchcock directed the classic shower scene, with jarring edits between the victim and the weapon that gives the illusion that what’s going on looks gorier and more brutal than it actually is. The ending, which explains the killer’s reasoning for their murder spree, also seems similiar to the final moments of PSYCHO as well. Rewatching this not only made me realize how much Argento was inspired by other directors, but how directors later on were inspired by this movie. It’s hard not to see certain scenes and shots play out in the film and not see Brian DePalma’s DRESSED TO KILL or BLOW OUT, which were released a decade later. It’s pretty cool to see.

Speaking of Argento, his direction is pretty great even at the beginning of his filmography. While he would get more inventive in terms of shots, the use of mise-en-scene and the use of colors, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE shows that Argento knows what he was doing behind the camera to visually tell his story. The location shots are beautiful. The set pieces are visualized well, adding atmosphere to the film. While tame compared to later films, the murder sequences are shot well and have enough tension to be effective despite the lack of gore. I love the use of shadows and light, in particular to one certain scene where the film is shot just in candlelight to beautiful effect. Argento proved to be a confident filmmaker right from the start, only getting better as he made more films. The film does everything a standard giallo film ought to do, which makes the direction a success.

The acting is tough to judge considering the version I watched was dubbed. Some of the voices, especially for the supporting characters, sounded really campy and cheesy - almost as if they belonged in a spoof comedy rather than a horror film. But the main actors do well in their roles. In particular, Tony Musante is pretty good as the lead Sam Dalmas. He has movie star looks and crafts a likable hero we want to follow and root for. He’s not the most dynamic actor, but he does enough to get by. Suzy Kendall is also quite good as Julia, having good moments of distress in the film’s final act. Plus she’s quite fetching on the eyes. Enrico Maria Salerno does well as the film’s lead inspector, continuing the horror trope of a police officer not being capable of his job, letting someone random do the work for him. But he’s another likable actor who has a nice rapport with Musante, making their on-screen dynamic work. I think Argento’s casts would get more interesting later on, with memorable actors getting to work with better material and crazier set pieces. But for a first outing, the actors set the precedence well.

And I can’t end the film without talking about Ennio Morricone’s interesting score that sounds like a haunting lullaby. The “la-la-la’s” vary in different scenes, but it oddly captures the tone of the film well. Nowhere close to my favorite Ennio Morricone film score but it does it job.


Dario Argento’s 1970 directorial debut, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, is not top-tier Argento for me. But it’s definitely high second-tier, as it’s refreshingly plot driven with a standard giallo that ends up being more predictable than his later, somewhat convoluted, mysteries would end up becoming. With plot and visual elements taken from previous Alfred Hitchcock and Mario Bava thrillers, Argento crafts a whodunit that’s a fun watch due to likable characters, neat set pieces and a resolution that puts the unreliable narrator motif to great use. While nowhere as stylish or as gory as later films would be, Argento still provides interesting visuals and shot scales that show how much more confident he would be as a filmmaker during his peak period in the genre. The actors are good in their roles, even if the English dubbing can be more campy than one would like at times. THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is a solid giallo debut from a master of horror who would improve upon his work here to provide horror audiences more memorable and crazier moments to come.

3 Howls Outta 4

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