Director(s): Jordan Peele
Writer(s): Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun
Jordan Peele is the strongest creative figure in the horror genre at the moment. Nope (see what I did there?), I’m not looking for an argument, my vault, my proclamations. Three films, three fantastically thoughtful films where the backbone is made of sheer terror and uncomfortable reflection. He is clearly a student of so many icons in the genre with the pacing of Hitchcock, the pensive nature of Romero and overall flow of peak Carpenter. I’m sure something has to give, that’s just the natural course of any creative figure; at some point the rise can only succumb to the fall but for now, let’s enjoy this filmmaker for all that he represents at this moment in time because he respects the genre, and it seems he respects the idea of entertaining you.
But you what? In the pantheon of my vault, Mr. Peele will not be the person I think of when I think of his latest FEARtastic offering, Nope.
I picture a tall, bearded, jolly man that’s friendship personified; a man who dedicated himself into making sure every person he considered a friend felt special and worth the time on this Earth simply by being themselves. The reason I’m clacking on the keyboard now narrating about a movie that shall reside in an analogous vault which represents my love of the horror genre was because this friend wanted to make a site where folks like me can gush about what they love and perhaps even reach folks like you.
My friend, Nathan Schulz passed away recently and the last thing we did together was dedicate an evening to watching the movie, Nope.
Nate has been my friend since 2004 (maybe 2003). We met through the other Agent of Guard who got me writing on this site and one of my closest friends, Justin as he suckered us into watching an early screening of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Yeah, let’s say I wasn’t a fan but what was great was that Nate and I bonded in quipping about the movie and on each other then a bit on Justin then back to each other then perhaps the movie again but ultimately, yes each other. Nate’s gift was he knew how to adapt to the person in front of him and quickly realized sarcastic quips that poke fun at our insecurities was somehow comforting to me, so he joined right in and yes, a strong bond was forged that night. Let’s skip the 20 or so years of friendship filled with sketches, stand up, movies, quips, parties, Comic Cons, camping trips, love gained, love lost, love that should have been, cocktails and more cocktails because this is about the last time I got to enjoy Nate’s presence.
As life usually does, we both got busy as of late pursuing our careers and/or passions. However, Nate’s superpower was ensuring that the relationships that he valued were kept intact. Read that again and let it soak in folks. So imagine my black little heart start gushing with joy when I got a text from Nate asking if I’ve seen Jordan Peele’s new flick. We set up a date with a group of friends where the night would be quite simple and classic; watch the movie, eat dinner and chat about the movie then grab some drinks and talk about anything but the movie…but eventually talk about the movie again.
I remember Nate and I liked the same things about Nope which was the fact that it was different from Jordan Peele’s other two horror hits, the social cautionary anecdote that was Get Out and the social uprising tale that was Us. As great as his first two movies were, the idea was that the third would be where the cracks on shell would start to show. I wouldn’t have even been mad once I saw them because you can’t keep cranking out art expecting the overwhelming majority to love it every time. However, as Nate pointed out, this flick was simply successful in being different but keeping the same quality of storytelling, pacing, etc. that made Jordan Peele successful. Sure, there was definitely a clear social commentary going on in this movie but what made it different was the presentation. While Peele’s first two flicks leaned on the horror to ensure he got his social commentary came across the audience, this movie felt more like a Sci-Fi treasure hunt adventure in the likes of Tremors where we have the protagonists of the flick working together with limited tools to find seek the terrifying truth.
Part of what makes the treasure hunt feel more enjoyable is the chemistry of the cast and Peele did a fantastic job in ensuring that the interactions between the cast had feeling of being sincere whether it be annoyance, love, or awkwardness. You know that this hunt was more about the treasure, it brought people together, it challenged the views of people who thought they all had it figured out and it shaped relationships that were once fragmented. Like Nate and I discussed in detail, Peele wanted to set out and do something different but with all of his charms that made him famous in the horror world.
Nate and I spent the rest of the night clinking glasses at a bar talking about the movie (barely) and we both agreed it was a hit, most certainly in our hearts but we talked about our future creative ventures as well, mostly Nate’s because the man had great ideas up his sleeve. What I enjoyed most about that night was how he would tell a story; one of the best things about watching a great movie is how it energizes your creative juices. Things like a great movie, a visit to a convention or just simply being in the presence of other creative folks causes your blood to boil and burst with creative ideas and I simply sat back and listened to Nat pitch me ideas as if I was some sort of streaming Czar and that my investment in his ideas would revolutionize my streaming platform. Nate was not trying to sell me on something but basically inviting me to walk into his idea and enjoy the views.
I remember him finishing up his beer, letting me know it was time for him to leave. I was still in the glow of excitement from some of his ideas and he seemed to be glowing from all the quips we were able to dish on each other. As I usually do, I stayed for a couple more drinks, but I do remember him smiling big as he’s known to do for most of his life and told me he’d see me soon. That was the last time we hung out. Someone who I can tell enough stories about that would topple the FearTastic Vault itself has now passed. I’m so grateful that out of all the adventures Nate and I had gathered throughout our friendship, the last time we got to hang was blissfully simple. A movie, a dinner, and some drinks while we gushed about our creative thoughts and pitches.
That’s how I’ll forever remember the movie, Nope and it shall be a story that I’ll keep near and dear to my heart. That’s what great stories do though, right? It’s not just about telling ourselves but also spreading it to others so that they achieve immortality as they keep moving on in time an space, so I’ll make sure to keep telling my Nate stories and hopefully you’ll be one of the folks who get to hear it from me someday.
Maybe with some drinks but hopefully after a great horror flick.
I love you Nate. Thanks for letting me and the FearTASTIC Vault wreak mischievous havoc on your site.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.