This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I am an Amazon Affiliate and will receive earnings on any purchases made through those links. I appreciate your support and hope you enjoy the article.
Howdy y’all. I can’t promise a Star Lasso Experience–nor do I want to–but I am here to talk about NOPE, Jordan Peele’s latest horror/sci-fi film. This is both a review as well as a dip into some true crime territory, so there will be discussion about the plot, certain scenes and possible aftermaths. Therefore, spoiler alert straight ahead.
If you’re looking for a scathing review nit picking the film, this is not the place. This film has left its audience rather divided, and I rest quite comfortably on the side of “really fricking enjoyed it.” If you’ve jumped into other voids here, you know I love a slow burn, so this film appealed to me while others maybe thought they were in for a different type of movie. I don’t blame them; the trailer left a lot to the imagination.
Nonetheless let’s get into this and dive into the real-life inspiration for one of NOPE’s standout and disturbing scenes.
Another Stellar Performance
Peele has said it himself. Daniel Kaluuya is his De Niro. Kaluuya solidified himself in Peele’s debut, Get Out–a film very important in the horror genre and most definitely the best horror films of the 2010s. Therefore, it was no surprise that he delivered in this role as OJ Haywood. He really has a way with subtle twitch movements in his face, as his character has a more stoic demeanor that he manages to keep despite the chaos occurring around him.
However, the expression in his eyes allow the viewer to get an insight of what is going on inside his head. His character is in an incredibly difficult position to maintain a dream after his father is suddenly ripped away from him by the very thing that will stalk and hunt him and his sister through the film. His character is the rock for his neurotic sister, who balances him out by encouraging him to loosen up on the reigns a bit–even if it can come off shallowly at times.
On top of that, he does get the most “nopes” in the film. This was always timed and intonated perfectly to reflect both his character and the audience’s reaction. His choices to not engage at times are incredibly relatable and pokes fun at the typical naive but curious victims in horror films. Sometimes, you don’t need to go investigating. Saying nope and staying out the situation might be the difference between life and death. In many cases in this film, it was OJ’s saving grace to act upon his “NOPE.”
Keke Palmer, steven yeun and company
While Kaluuya kills it upon his return to Peele’s filmography, it would be a waste of an article not to mention the performances of the rest of the cast, especially those of Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun. Palmer is a shining star in this movie, delivering comic relief left and right that didn’t seem excessive in my eyes. Instead of the stoicism of her brother, her character Emerald Haywood is a woman of many talents, and while she may seem misguided, she is dealing with her father’s death in her own way as she wrongfully took second place to her brother her whole life. Instead, she becomes the film’s leading heroine, striking the final blow to the alien.
The final blow to the alien comes in the form of a giant, inflatable version of Ricky ‘Jupe’ Hicks, played brilliantly by Steven Yeun. Yeun is tasked with one of the more difficult roles of the film, as he is both the catalyst and antagonist of the events. Jupe is very much blinded by success as well as possible PTSD due to a traumatic event that occurred in his childhood that he now glamorizes. This glamorization boosts his ego enough to try and coax the beast to his benefit that backfires gloriously–sandwiched between two scenes that made me incredibly uncomfortable.
Before we go into that, it would be a shame not to mention the performances of Michael Wincott and Brandon Perea. Wincott delivers as he usually does, but major props to Perea since this is his first major film role. He knocks it out of the park as Angel quickly stole my heart during the film’s runtime. As well as a brief but memorable appearance from Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreria, NOPE delivers on its performances.
Travis The Chimp: A True Story
Now to get into the nitty gritty. Back in 1995, a couple in Missouri bought a baby chimp from a breeder that had been separated from his mother just when he was three days old. This chimp’s name was Travis. Sandra and Jerome Herold quickly socialized the chimp with humans and got him television and advertisement gigs from the get-go. Travis was incredibly intelligent–he fed the couple’s horses, took care of his own personal hygiene as well as change the channels on the television to his liking.
The Herolds viewed Travis as a son, mostly given the light that they lost their only son to a car crash in 2000. The chimp only had one incident prior to the accident that inspired that scene in regard to not being able to catch him after he was startled. However, with Jerome Herold dying of cancer in 2004 and Sandra possibly drugging Travis to keep him came to a head in 2009. Travis attacked a family friend, Charla Nash, after a welfare check on Sandra Herold after Travis stole the car keys and wouldn’t return them. Upon her arrival, Travis attacked her and severed many of her limbs and ate multiple of her facial features.
Herold hit the chimp in the head with a shovel. She also stabbed him in the back with a butcher knife. Once she realized that Nash might be dead, she finally called 911 and hauntingly screamed into the phone, “He’s eating her!” with Travis screaming in the background. The police arrived and shot Travis in the head. Nash was in critical condition and went through 7 hours of surgery to stabilize her. This is a summary of an article, which you can find here.
Jupe never learned his lesson: Why The Scene was There
With the details laid out, it is hard to deny that the story of Gordy mirrors the gruesome tragedy of Travis. Now to the main point: what was the reason for Jordan Peele to make this part of Jupe’s story? Well, it’s the fatal flaw that gets him killed as well as the patrons eager to see his show. In that Gordy scene, Jupe thinks he has a chance for connection with Gordy. That if they wouldn’t have shot him before he made contact with the chimp’s fist, he would have possibly gotten through. A sort of god complex.
This is why he thinks to try and “communicate” with this otherworldly figure and assumes that he’s successful. If he had a ‘true’ connection with Gordy, who’s to say he doesn’t have a connection with this alien? I mean, it has been accepting the horses and no threat to him during rehearsals, so why would it harm him? Well, we all know what happens when we assume. A huge alien sucks you up and vomits you right back up again.
Therefore, this deadly assumption he makes does make him the villain in this story. He is the key piece to the metaphor of gentrification. He thought that he was doing something stupendous–in a league of its own–but instead does it on the backs of the Haywoods which results in the death of their father and horses–the death of their legacy. Not only does his ignorance harms the Haywoods, but it also harms himself in addition to the consumers that feed into the gentrification. Quite a deep message there with multiple layers.
conclusion and Final Review
I loved NOPE. I’ve seen it twice in theaters now and there are so many more pieces to the puzzle that fall into place with repeat viewing. Excellently paced with extraordinary acting performances from actors new and old, it’s a sci-fi thriller that is laced together with a deep and harrowing metaphor. It has proved Peele to be a promising filmmaker for the genre (not that he wasn’t already) and the naysayers are just bitter. He is a fantastic filmmaker with NOPE being a great example of it. You can rent NOPE on Amazon Video or if you would like to continue to support the movement of physical media, you can purchase it in 4k here.
Anyways, thanks for spelunking this void with me. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here and follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. Did you like NOPE? Check out the custom sticker on Redbubble of Gordy himself. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horrific tomorrow. See ya next time.