In Nope, UFOs come for your body, but Hollywood will come for your soul

A still from Nope featuring Keke Palmer. PHOTO: UIP

Nope (NC16)

130 minutes, opens Aug 18

4 stars

The story: In a sun-drenched and arid valley outside Los Angeles, siblings O.J. (British actor Daniel Kaluuya) and Em (American actress Keke Palmer) struggle to keep their horse ranch going. When they discover something mysterious in the skies above, their neighbour Ricky (Steven Yeun) - who runs a successful Old West theme park - tries to profit from the otherworldly phenomenon.

It is always exciting when Jordan Peele releases a new movie - you never know which one of his anxieties he will put on the big screen or which classic movies the film buff will reference and remix.

In his third feature as writer-director, he deals with the fear of the unknown lurking in the ocean above people's heads: the sky, and what might be hiding behind the clouds.

It is a bizarre fear because most people looking upwards will think of freedom, optimism and endless horizons.

Peele sets out to make the sunlit heavens feel like a dark forest filled with predators and he succeeds.

It makes you think of "up there" as a scary place the way Tremors (1990), with its burrowing man-eaters, made the earth feel as if it were teeming with writhing horrors.

But you do not watch a Peele horror film for the jump scares and blood, though these elements are there.

As in previous films Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), his new work exposes the American soul.

His identity as a black man in a racist, class-ridden society was explored in his previous films.

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This new work finds the show-business veteran looking at the side of himself that is complicit in the crimes committed by the entertainment industry.

In particular, the hopefuls that the industry exploits, then abandons.

O.J., Em and Ricky are linked to the Hollywood meatgrinder in complicated, toxic ways. Episodes from their lives, set in the business to which they owe their existence but which has hurt them, form the creepiest portion of Nope.

Unknown horrors might rain down from the sky. But at ground level, walking in plain sight, grinning and pointing their cameras, the real monsters lurk.

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