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Jordan Peele Says NOPE

Explore this legendary horror director's impactful body of work.

NOPE by Jordan Peele
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  • Photo Credit: Monkeypaw Productions

When Jordan Peele pivoted from comedy to horror, he revolutionized the genre seamlessly overnight. 

Utilizing horror’s most revealing and provocative tropes, he managed to shift interest back into a genre that had languished prior to the breakout hit film—and his directorial debut—2017’s Get Out. Since then, we’ve seen both the world and the horror genre endure massive changes, with the latter experiencing a rising wave of renewed interest and innovation. 

Peele is back this summer with NOPE, a film that promises to be as exhilarating as it is provocative. What we know so far is that it takes place in a small town at the onset of an odd event in the sky that causes abnormalities in animal and natural behavior. Yup, it sounds like Peele is going to have his fun with UFOs and possible alien invasion

Peele has often cited films that pushed against the expectations of their time, like Funny Games and Rear Window as personal influences, so it makes sense that NOPE will undoubtedly cause whiplash in viewers come July 22nd. There’s more to the spectacle he’s conjuring with the film. 

In anticipation of the film’s release, we thought it would be a great time to check out Peele’s oeuvre of work and what he’s worked on outside of the world of Get Out.

Related: 13 Essential Black Horror Movies

Us (2019)

Do you remember where you were when you watched Us? It was quite a hurdle to have to follow up Get Out, given all the critical acclaim that the film received. Should something like that happen, the writer/director at the helm often buckles or at least gets caught in the weeds of delivering something to match the benchmark. Peele followed up his breakout with a film that undoubtedly was written to sidestep the structures of comparison. 

At first, it seems like a bizarre home invasion. Adelaide and her family are stalked by a family in red that looks eerily like themselves. Soon we are clued into the connection (or should we use the word “tether?”) binding Adelaide to her doppelganger, her family to their own mirror selves. Peele manages to subvert every narrative beat, eventually turning the film on its head, becoming something much bigger than anything the audience might have expected upon first viewing. It was Peele’s way of saying NOPE to the pressure and “need” to walk the same path as his debut.

Related: 8 Social Horror Books That Tackle Urgent Issues

The Twilight Zone (2019)

After Us, and with energies renewed in directing and producing, Peele sought to revive a touchstone television property, The Twilight Zone. A 10-episode season was released via CBS with Peele working on the second episode as well as acting as a producer for the season. 

“Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” is a retelling of a Twilight Zone classic, about a journalist who boards a plane of untold horrors. New to this version, the journalist listens to a podcast that describes how the flight will inevitably meet its doom. 

The show was renewed for a second season and Peele retained his producer role alongside directing the episode, “Downtime.” In the episode, a man named S. Phineas Howell suffers a heart attack while in a virtual reality called SleepAway, which permeates multiple identities including that of a woman named Michelle Weaver.

Candyman (2021)

Peele wrote and produced another revival of a beloved horror classic, Candyman. The film reprises the eponymously named Candyman as a mysterious force and urban legend known for scaring and haunting the Cabrini-Green housing projects. 

This time, we witness Candyman through the lens of a budding artist named Anthony McCoy as he begins to succumb to strange behavior. Peele modernizes the 1992 classic with a confident direction by Nia DaCosta. Instead of rehashing Candyman’s backstory, we instead see how the urban legend has been used by various sources to influence, affect, and even motivate the masses, and works as a direct commentary on legends and Black history

Lovecraft Country (2020)

Based on the 2016 Matt Ruff novel of the same name, Lovecraft Country was produced as a television series by Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions. Though Peele takes on more of an executive producer role, much of his influence can be seen in how the age-old horror tropes are remixed, and just as often undone, to make way for an examination of history and identity. 

The 10-episode series introduces viewers to Atticus Freeman as he goes on a road trip through the Jim Crow era America full of racism and all kinds of monsters, both literal and figurative.

Other Work

Did you know: Peele has also produced other television series, including one about an infamous crime involving a severed penis? It’s true—Lorena is a docuseries about the 1993 assault and sensationalized court case involving one Lorena Bobbitt and her husband, John Bobbitt. Lorena infamously cut off her husband’s penis with a kitchen knife while he was sleeping and threw it out of a moving car. 

Peele also acted as an executive producer for Weird City, an anthology sci-fi comedy series based in the futuristic city called Weird. The city is socially segregated by economic class and the story revolves around the Haves and the Have-Nots. 

Also, as an executive producer, he aided in producing Hunters, a television series inspired by real-world Nazi hunters which, in turn, are fictionalized to be a group of Nazi hunters in 1970s New York City working to take down Nazis looking to begin the Fourth Reich. 

Clearly, Peele has established himself as someone that uses genre and tropes not to confine or conflate but rather to conjure and make curious the innermost commentaries of the current cultural moment.