Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Nope.
Jordan Peleit is Nope is jam-packed with chilling moments of dread and dread, many of which are red herringbone scares. Fake outs. From the beginning of the last climactic quarter of an hour of the film, while OJ (Daniel Kalluya), Em (Keke Palmer), Angel (Brandon Perea), and Holst (Michael Wincott) are about to set an elaborate trap to finally catch the devouring monster named Jean Jacket, a man on an electric motorcycle (Devon Gray) wearing a mirror helmet appears. When Em walks up to ask him what he’s doing there, he replies ominously, in a (very) creepy voice “See that cloud?”
Who is this guy? A fed? A private detective? A humanoid alien somehow related to Jean Jacket?
No. He’s just a TMZ reporter, ready to capture footage of Jean Jacket — and an interview with Em and them — presumably to sell to a network for the exorbitant amount such spectacular content would be worth. He throws a rapid succession of questions at Em, raising conspiracies in an attempt to dig deep into the bizarre happenings at Skirt (steven yeun) Star Lasso Experience. Once rebuffed by Em’s lack of cooperation, the guy takes off on his bike, camera rigged in preparation to capture some truly eerie footage.
It may seem like an unnecessary detail, a bit of a mess that disrupts the flow of the film’s most relentless suspenseful scenes, but of course Peele has a particular intent here. The journalist reinforces Nopeis the major theme of humanity’s tendency to be attracted to and exploit spectacles. The reporter arrives for no other reason than to make a quick buck on the supernatural phenomenon, the kind of irrational behavior that ultimately leads to his demise.
We have seen that wherever Jean Jacket goes, the electricity goes out. That’s why Holst sets up a non-electric camera in an attempt to film the creature. Of course, since the reporter’s bike is electric, and he rushes towards Jean Jacket’s anti-electric field, the bike suddenly breaks down, throwing the poor guy across the dusty desert. OJ heroically attempts to save his life (risking his own in the process), only to have his rescue denied. Instead, the guy begs OJ to capture footage of him lying in his mangled wreckage after the crash. For him, that’s all that matters: the images.
Unfortunately for him, he is sucked into Jean Jacket, where he is quickly digested alongside Jupe and her Star Lasso participants. And just like that, he died as he lived: in pursuit of the spectacular and worthy of a scoop.
It’s a brilliant inclusion in one of the film’s most pivotal moments for several reasons. On the one hand, as mentioned earlier, it works to tie into one of the film’s central themes, which is exploiting the spectacle of the world. On the other hand, it reminds the audience of several previously mentioned major points of interest, such as Lucky The Horse’s dismay at seeing his own reflection, as well as the electrical stopping power of Jean Jacket’s aura. And for yet another, it’s just a damn good movie, mixing suspense with comedy (“you can use my camera,” the reporter moans, begging OJ for a quick photo), giving our main protagonist reason to be put in immediate danger again.
With Nope, Peele has a proven track record in deception. Throughout the film, he taps into disturbing and frightening images that have very real, non-threatening realities behind them. Like the group of little grey-faced aliens that invade OJ’s stable or the fear of the horrid praying mantis face that suddenly appears in front of the Haywoods’ surveillance camera, the sudden appearance of a man with a strange in a mirrored helmet evokes immediate discomfort. . What could be an ominous threat turns out to be nothing but a TMZ reporter looking for a quick win. Peele uses this seemingly inadmissible moment to his advantage, pulling the suspense and once again reaffirming the intent of the film.
There is nothing supernatural or mysterious here. He’s just a normal guy, a paparazzo of sorts, who talks scarier than he needs to.
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