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Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’: Borrowing from ufology, old and new?

Does Nope stand for ‘Not of Planet Earth’? That’s one of the theories that has been bandied about since an initial teaser trailer for the new movie from award-winning film-maker Jordan Peele was released earlier this year that – while not showing much – did show plenty of characters looking up at the sky (and a short scene that appeared to show the top of the head of a small ‘grey’ alien) before ending with one of the lead characters being pulled up into the sky.

Well the final trailer just released for Nope, which will drop on 22 July, seems to confirm that it’s all about them UFOs (and related topics, as we’ll discuss below), as it explicitly shows what appears to be a stonking great flying saucer chasing another lead character down a dirt road in broad daylight. Check it out:

For those that don’t mind knowing a bit before seeing the actual movie, the international trailer offers some additional context:

The trailers certainly bring more of the same creepy vibes as Peele’s previous films Get Out and Us. But two elements in particular piqued my interest, as they seem to reference (knowingly or not) cases from ufological history….one from half a century ago, another more recent.

The first is alluded to not just by the movie’s setting – a horse ranch – but also possibly in several scenes in the trailers: a panicked horse running, a horse’s head crashing through a windscreen (I think?), and lastly a horse possibly being used as ‘bait’. But perhaps most obviously, in the poster for the film which shows a horse levitating in the sky (see the image at the top of this post). Those who know their UFO history, in particular the topic of ‘mutes’ (livestock mutilations), might see a call-back here to the famous case of ‘Snippy the Horse’ – one of the original ‘mutes’, dating back to 1967.

On September 9 of that year, on a ranch near the town of Alamosa in the San Luis Valley, the body of a 3-year-old Appaloosa (according to a number of sources, ‘Snippy’ was not actually the horse’s name) was found two days after it had gone missing. But, shockingly, the corpse was found with the neck and head of the horse completely stripped of flesh, while the rest of the body was intact.

Snippy’s mutilated remains

So the story goes, no blood was found on or around the body, and a number of darkened patches like scorch marks were found in the vicinity of the carcass. Furthermore, about 100 yards away was a shrub which was squashed nearly flat, and six small, round indentations in the ground in the shape of a circle. And so the legend emerged (to William of Occam’s horror), that aliens were responsible.

In the decade following, it was cattle, not horses, that became the ‘stars’ of the livestock mutilation story, with thousands of reported cases – so much so that most people now refer to the mystery as ‘cattle mutilations‘, even though one of the first modern cases was that of a horse. Linda Moulton Howe’s 1980 documentary on the phenomenon A Strange Harvest catapulted the phenomenon into mainstream conversations, where it has remained ever since.

As for Snippy, there is no resting in peace just yet: a few months ago Snippy hit the news again due to the horse’s skeleton being bought as a feature for a roadside UFO attraction, the UFO Watchtower. And it’s possible that Peele’s Nope might bring the myth right back into the public’s focus again, 55 years after Snippy’s mysterious death.

The other element of the trailers for Nope that reminded me of a part of UFO history was the setting up of cameras to monitor the ranch for UFO activity, bringing to mind the infamous Skinwalker Ranch and the alleged paranormal activity – including livestock mutilations – reported at that location. The ranch first came to public prominence in the book Hunt for the Skinwalker, authored by Colm Kelleher and George Knapp (we reviewed the book and interviewed the authors way back in 2006), though over time the mythology has grown and more recently it has featured in Jeremy Corbell’s documentary with the same name as the book, and even has its own History Channel series devoted to it, The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch.

The latter coverage – since the ranch changed hands from Robert Bigelow to Brandon Fugal – also feels right in line with Nope‘s apparent storyline of the ranch owners trying to get the best UFO footage out there in the mold of online influencers searching for ‘clout’. It will be interesting to see how Jordan Peele ends up treating the subject when the movie is released next month.

Between the UFO-related topics that are likely to be covered, Jordan Peele’s excellent sensibilities for making creepy horror cinema, and appearances by two of the greatest voices in movies (Keith David, 40 years on from his role in John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Michael Wincott), I’ll definitely be checking Nope out at the first opportunity!

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