Watching many modern horror movies can feel like walking through a haunted graveyard of references. The rotting corpses of classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Where the brilliant threaten to spring from the ground at any moment, often as a flashing visual hint or a conscious line of dialogue. Sometimes a character will literally look at the exact slasher the plot is set on or wear a vintage look meant to serve as a taste marker. In the case of a franchise like Scream, jokes are part of the fun. On TV, Netflix’s 80s obsessives stranger things accelerated this trend, weaponizing nostalgia and reselling it to eager audiences in oversized streaming chunks.
Jordan Peele’s latest gender-blending experiment Nope, a monster flick about two black horse-training siblings on the outskirts of Hollywood played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, feels both acutely aware and sneakily skeptical of that exact dynamic. In the opening minutes, we read a Bible quote, hear the heartwarming sound of a laughter track, and see the images of Eadweard Muybridge’s cabinet cards from 1878 “The Horse in Motion.” Immediately the get out The filmmaker brought the scriptures, the corny sitcom and the history of cinema into conversation. As the plot progresses, the references become clearer: a poster for Sidney Poitier’s Western Buck and the preachera tangent around SNL Cast member Chris Kattan and the repeated invocation of the “Oprah stunt.”
And then there are the clothes. Kaluuya’s calm OJ Haywood sports an orange hoodie from the set The Scorpion Kingthe Mummy spin-off best known for providing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with his first starring role. (OJ’s father, also a horse trainer, worked on the film.) Palmer’s Emerald Haywood, more rebellious and outgoing than her brother, later wears a T-shirt for noise-rock band The Jesus Lizard. Brandon Perea’s electronics store clerk Angel wears a shirt for doom metal band Earth, and alt-rock staples Rage Against the Machine also appear. Peele and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Principle) often frame shirts in planes that don’t attempt to obscure band logos or names. Instead of feeling like an empty believability hunt, the suit, courtesy of Alex Bovaird, who did similarly sharp work on HBO The White Lotus, deepens the experience. This is the best kind of costume work: intentional yet believable.
These aren’t exactly obscure “deep” references. SNL is one of the most popular and longest-running comedy shows on television; Rage Against the Machine is a major festival headliner and a dorm poster staple; Oprah is Oprah. There is an admirably simple strain of populism that runs through Peele’s work. At the same time, the films that probably influenced the structure and pace of Nope—Steven Spielberg does thrill rides like Jaws, Dating of the Third Kindand War of the Worlds– go unnoticed. This is a UFO movie with no jokes about HEY, X filesWhere independence day Overview. If you were on Twitter this week, you know Peele is a big fan of John Carpenterbut you won’t hear the characters talk about the genius of The thing Where They live. That would break the charm of the film.
This isn’t the first time Peele has used costumes to play a little semiotic game with the audience. In the 1986 opening sequence of We, a young girl wears a Michael Jackson “Thriller” shirt, a character detail that is both precise and evocative. As Peele later explained in an interview with NME, he considered the shirt to be the “perfect symbol” for exploring the film’s themes. “I think it addresses this idea of the shadow self and when we talk about the collective shadow self, which this film is about, it involves an ability for us to ignore the truth and the darker side of ourselves. themselves,” he said. Months later, he did an entire movie T-shirt interview with The New York Timestelling the newspaper that the shirt represents identity, specifically “the outward-facing brand image we present to the world”.
Besides the King of Pop, the opening of We also featured a character wearing a Black Flag t-shirt. What shirt does Peele wear in one of the backstage Nope pictures with Kaluuya? A Black Flag shirt, of course. In one of the band’s most famous songs, “TV Party,” they poke fun at the couch potato mentality with the following lines: “Don’t talk about nothing else/We don’t wanna know/We devote ourselves to our favorite shows. They keep naming a number of them. (“Saturday Night Live! Monday night football! Jefferson!””) With its mixture of satire, terror and awe, Nope taps into a similar barbed energy, allowing Peele to host his own blood-soaked TV party for your amusement. Without a doubt, he will have the last word.
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