First it was a white racist family who kidnapped and subdued their daughter’s boyfriend. Then it was the turn of some clones who harassed and attacked a family on vacation. Now the danger comes from above and hides behind the clouds. These are the three threats that New York filmmaker Jordan Peele (New York, age 43) has placed at the center of the three films he has directed – Let Me Out (2017), Us (2019) and The which starts this Friday, Nope! ! – and that does a good job of expressing his ideology as a director: a perfect storm of terror, spectacle, humor and references to the black community. And that’s helped him consistently debut at the top of the US box office, something no one had achieved with three original stories he wrote himself.
In his new proposal, Peele combines his passion for alien films with a critique of the way spectacles are consumed. And for that he goes back to the origins of cinema, a point where he takes the opportunity to celebrate the less visible heritage of the black community in this art. The protagonists are two brothers descended from the so-called first actor in cinema history: the African-American horseman who appeared in the photo sequence used by Eadweard Muybridge for a film in the 1870s and lives a few generations later on his ranch where horses were filmed and filmed Television to be bred and prepared. But the arrival of chromas and visual effects has left his shop in the dark like so many other craftsmen in the world of cinema. And as if that weren’t enough with their economic situation, the brothers (played by Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya) must contend with something haunting them from the clouds.
“When I was writing this film [durante la pandemia] I felt like we were in the middle of a wicked miracle. He didn’t know exactly what it meant, but he felt like the world had somehow fallen apart. And in very different ways,” says Peele in colorful clothing in a video conference interview. “I was mainly focused on the idea of offering a show, something that draws everyone, regardless of the plot. And as I continued to work on the story, it became an indictment of the way we consume entertainment.” It does so metaphorically, because for the protagonists, first of all, it’s about capturing what’s happening in the heavens, showing that something happens and then the solution is found.
The public still doesn’t quite know what to expect from me, which is pretty exciting.”
To start this comparison, Peele turns to UFOs. Firstly, because they inspire him: “The legacy of these films really isn’t enough for my taste. I always want more.” And second, because he thinks they’re an ideal entity: “What I like about UFOs is that they’re kind of a perfect mask that allows us to project a lot of theories about what’s inside.” And that in itself is a perfect horror engine. This is what Michael Myers and the movie Halloween are based on. If you offer that blank slate, the public will do the rest of the work to project past their worst nightmare. But it’s also important to promise them that eventually they’ll find out what’s behind that curtain. That’s why I wanted to make a UFO film. And then of course I want to surprise the public.”
Left to right: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea in ¡Nop! by Jordan Peele.EFE
The filmmaker wants to show that horror films can be a perfect vehicle for social denunciation, as he did with Let Me Out or Us, and raises more questions. In addition to racism and morbidity in the industry, child exploitation or animal cruelty are also present, highlighted by the presence of an Asian child and a monkey during one sequence. “None of them should have been there. And that’s the main part. But the matter is much deeper. There are connections between the use of primates in cinema and the history of cinema itself. And with films like King Kong, which is about the show itself, and even 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is about the evolution of mankind and what is yet to come is possible,” explains the filmmaker.
The list of titles that Peele used in creating Nope! is so remarkable that the director himself admits that “watching the public identify and theorize them is one of the funnest parts” of his work: Jaws, The Host, Signals, Close Encounters of the Third Kind… He confesses , that “on that note, one movie that hasn’t gotten enough attention is David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive because it’s a perfect horror satire about Hollywood. I think it’s perfect.” There is even space for a homage to the Japanese animation work Akira, which he describes as “the greatest manga” of all time: “Anime has a very special way of telling a story. Maybe it’s the ambition of their stories and the confidence with which manga and anime create new worlds.”
I’m surprised a lot of people are trying to figure out why I’m putting this speaker on black people who watch horror movies.”
And though Peele drinks from films of other genres when it comes to directing, he always knew he wanted to make horror films. “It’s a weird addiction, I think. No idea why. Actually, I’d say I don’t think I can make a film without a spooky element. And that it’s not based in any way on reality, which is scary and fun. And when you include nightmarish images, it automatically becomes scary for many people. And I love horror, so in a way I welcome my films being classified under that name.”
Despite being engulfed in terror, the New Yorker always tries to innovate with his stories, all of which are different from one another while sharing his critique of racism and praise for the black community. “I suspect the public still doesn’t quite know what to expect from me, which is pretty exciting. And I got a lot of love and support for what I do. But I’m surprised a lot of people are trying to figure out why I’m putting this speaker on black people with horror movies. It’s what resonates, and I don’t think there’s a single conclusion about my work that’s entirely consistent. Except that people seem interested.”
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