How Nope's Most Disturbing Sequence Came Together In The Editing Room

Update: This article originally stated that the entire interior sequence was created in post-production. Rather, the decision to insert the interior shots into the sequence in question was the major change. We regret the error.

This post contains spoilers for "Nope."

Jordan Peele continues to receive a lot of praise as a writer/director for a variety of reasons: creating likable and interesting characters, crafting stories that contain a good deal of thoughtful social commentary, and balancing comedy and horror in a unique way are just a few of those reasons.

However, there's one important aspect to his films so far that deserves to be pointed out as many times as possible: they're really, really scary.

Peele's latest feature, "Nope," is absolutely no exception to this. It contains some of the most unnerving sequences ever filmed, particularly the movie's centerpiece involving the brutal attack by the chimp known only as one of the apes who played "Gordy" in a cheesy sitcom. Yet there's another sequence that is just as disturbing for ironically opposite reasons — where "Gordy's" attack is deeply rooted in reality, the massacre caused by the extraterrestrial entity dubbed "Jean Jacket" by OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) is terrifying because of its alien quality.

The depiction of what happens to those consumed by the creature is one of the most memorable scenes in "Nope," and the way it's spliced into the unnerving rainstorm sequence was discovered in the editing room. 

Peele decides to break a typical horror-movie rule

One of the stalwart, tried-and-true principles of horror filmmaking involves keeping the monster/creature/et al in the shadows for as long as possible. It was a rule initially born out of necessity as well as craft, given how the classic "man in suit" monster movies could give away how the trick was done too easily if the camera lingered.

It also became an axiom thanks to filmmakers acknowledging how the power of the human mind is greater than any effect or visual. As director Ridley Scott put it in 2019, "You don't show the monster too many times because you'll get used to him and you never want to get used to him — ever. That's always been my thesis. The best screening room in the world is the space between your ears, which is your brain. So, it's learning to tap into the human brain to show just so much. Let the brain do a lot of the work. That's where you start to tap into people's anxieties."

Peele does do exactly this in "Nope," and the sequence involving Jean Jacket's attack on the exploitative Jupe Park (Steven Yeun) and his "Star Lasso Experience" (which involves Jupe sacrificing live horses to the alien) could have followed that rule. OJ shows up to the Jupiter's Claim amusement park and sees the bleachers devoid of people, while Jean Jacket flies around above while disturbing sounds of screaming and other noises emanate from the creature. Yet Peele decided to go a step further with the moment, brilliantly subverting that rule.

The interior of Jean Jacket becomes a terrifying addition

The moment where "Nope" takes us inside the bowels of Jean Jacket as it slowly consumes the attendees of the "Star Lasso Experience" is terrifying, and that was part of the plan. But the glimpses seen afterward, during the rainstorm sequence where the rest of the cast was terrorized? That came together in post-production. 

According to editor Nicolas Monsour, the moment was "a late discovery of Jordan after filming." As Monsour told /Film:

"The shots inside of the entity were something that were not planned. Jordan discovered and investigated with his VFX team after photography. So that's an interesting thing that got added into that section, is when we get a glimpse of what's going on that we're hearing down below, and we get these dark glimpses of what's happening up there. That's a great thing Jordan thought of that just added to that section feeling completely out of control."

The addition is remarkable for how much it adds to the sequence — rather than spoiling the moment by giving away too much or deflating the tension, the scene only raises more questions about how this creature operates and what, exactly, it does to its victims.

A lot of work went into designing the look and physiology of the Jean Jacket creature, with Peele consulting folks like CalTech engineering professor John O. Dabiri to help create the alien based on a variety of inspirations that ranged from undersea life to ship sails.

Peele understands nightmarish, surreal horror

Jean Jacket's interior is a surreal moment in a movie that is mostly grounded, and it's this surrealism that Peele mixes into "Nope" so well. The moment joins other aspects like coins falling from the sky and a mysterious upright shoe on the "Gordy's Home" set to help create a tapestry of unexplained phenomena that lets the brain do a lot of the work when it comes to terror, as Ridley Scott put it.

It also continues Peele's penchant for creating nightmarish imagery in his films that goes into the realm of the surreal, making the moments that much more powerful. It can be seen in sequences like the reveal of "Get Out's" Sunken Place or the dance that becomes a fight between doubles in "Us," to name just two examples.

"Nope's" exploration of the interior of the alien is a fantastic example of how such imagery can add to the overall horrific effect of a scene. It strikes at a base level, overwhelming our rational mind with the irrational and the unknown. That ambiguous approach is used for the creature throughout the movie, even when the characters have somewhat defined its behavior and purpose. It continues to physically change in surprising, odd, unexplainable ways, the beauty in its design contrasting with its predatory nature. In other words, the alien becomes the perfect catalyst to elicit the instinctive, emotional response referenced in the movie's title: when confronted with such a bizarre threat, what else is there to say but "nope"?