Yep, Nope

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a movie that starts with a quote from Nahum.  I also honestly admit that Nope left me scratching my head, but very glad to have seen it.  I trust Jordan Peele implicitly as both a screenwriter and a director, and I know I need to see Nope again to make it all fit (if that’s possible).  His movies are the most Twilight Zoneish things out there, and despite Peele’s reported reason for naming the film Nope, I’m going to keep watching the skies.  It’s clear he had done his ufological homework.  Even the idea that—SPOILER ALERT—have you seen it yet?  Are you going to?  You might want to finish this later, if you haven’t—they are biological entities has been widely discussed.  

Although classified as horror, Nope has mercifully few jump startles.  In fact I noticed (there were maybe only 10 of us in the theater) that one couple had brought their kids.  I can imagine they had some interesting discussions on the car ride home.  For me, driving home alone, I felt like I’d watched Close Encounters, Twister, Signs, and Arrival simultaneously.  Peele set out to film a spectacle and he did indeed.  Horror has become more intelligent of late, and there’s so much going on here that I’ll need some time to sort it out.  The online nattering suggests the Nahum quote (“I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile and make you a spectacle”) reflects Peele’s thoughts on the Bible.  A more literal take might see the evacuation of waste creating a spectacle, which it does.  How to explain the angel form of the creature?

Alien horror works.  Alien sees them deep in apace, but many films, such as Fourth Kind, see them closer to home. Fourth Kind, also by an Africa American director (Olatunde Osunsanmi) never received critical acclaim, but I thought the first half was impossibly scary.  It’s natural enough to fear those we don’t understand.  Perhaps that’s one reason we tend to deny their existence.  If we deal with them in fiction we can call it horror and go home happy.  Nope asks us to consider whether our differences matter so much in the face of a non-discriminate predator that eats any human that enters its territory.  Even if they were there first.  I still have a lot of questions about the movie.  Some of them will likely never be answered.  One that will is “Do you plan on seeing it again?”  The answer is yep.

Alien Agenda

Aliens are now firmly among the canonical cadre of movie monsters. Just the list of highly anticipated movies of 2011 is enough to demonstrate the fact: I Am Number Four, Battle: Los Angeles (past, but formerly anticipated), Cowboys and Aliens, Super 8, Apollo 18 (now sadly relegated to 2012). With two part-time jobs and the constant hunt for something more permanent, I tend to fall behind, however. I have to wait until the DVD release to see them.

Watching horror films has been an avocation of mine since college. Once when a sociology student asked me why, in the course of a survey; I replied that it was better to feel scared than to feel nothing at all. Well, maybe I’d been reading too much Camus and Kafka at the time, but the habit has persisted and I am now professionally attuned to their religious elements as well. Even the aliens got religion. This past weekend I stayed up late to watch The Fourth Kind. It was suitably scary – when I read the reviews vociferously castigating the producers for claiming it was real, I suspected that the reviewers were overcompensating. The premise (alien abduction) is frightening enough – especially in such a remote location as Nome, Alaska – but the Bible had to be brought into it as well.

Admittedly the fear began to wane when Zecharia Sitchin’s Sumerian hypothesis appeared. Aliens speaking Sumerian is simply not convincing to those of us who’ve actually learned extinct languages. (It could explain some of the textbooks, however, now that I think about it.) The book of Genesis was then cited by the film to verify the much more ancient Sumerian claims. Many horror films deal either directly or indirectly with the fear of religion. The Fourth Kind was no exception. I was reminded of how the Bible played a small but crucial role in The X-Files: I Want to Believe movie as well. As a prop the Bible lends gravitas to otherwise questionable celluloid situations.

Never one to accept the ancient astronauts model, years of studying the Bible have convinced me that context explains most of the anomalous passages in scripture. Nevertheless, the monsters lose their bite without religion, so let’s give Sitchin’s crowd their due and just pretend for a little while.