Directed by Jordan Peele.
Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker.
Gabe and Adelaide Wilson take their children on a vacation to their beach house hoping to enjoy some sunshine and relaxation. The family’s fun, however, is ruined by the arrival of a mysterious group of sinister individuals with malicious intent; themselves.
With a directorial debut like Get Out, one of the most talked-about and acclaimed horror films in recent years (a rare Oscar-winning one at that) it’s safe to say that writer/director Jordan Peele had a lot riding on his shoulders regarding what his follow-up would be. Thankfully, that follow-up would be Us, a whole new nightmare that further demonstrates that Peele is no one-trick pony.
In my view, what made Get Out work was the slow-burning approach it took with its horror elements. Using a subtle hand that beckoned you closer with small moments of oddness and uneasiness. Unfortunately, this approach led to confusion among viewers regarding the film’s genre, with some regarding it not as horror and more akin to a psychological thriller.
Us starts off following a similar approach with some small quiet moments that have you shifting uneasily in your seat. Then, once you think you know how things will play out, the Tethered arrive and everything changes, the film grabbing you by the throat and never letting go until the end credits roll. It’s a much more visceral and violent approach that marks Us out it out from its predecessor and dispelling any confusion as to what genre this film fits into. This is a horror film plain and simple.
The main draw of Us is the Tethered, marauding, scissor wielding, red jumpsuit clad psychopathic doppelgängers. What makes the Tethered so terrifying is that, for the most part, we are kept in the dark just what the hell they are, where they come from and what they want. An exposition dump near the end of the film attempts to shed light on the Tethered plans, yet even still, we really have no idea what their ultimate end goal is. They just seem to want to hunt down and kill themselves.
While Us is dark and violent, it’s also surprisingly funny. Whether it be Winston Duke’s ‘we can get crazy’ antics that backfire horribly, a Tethered’s mocking offer of help or one particularly clever use of ‘F**K the Police’, the film is full of darkly comic moments that serve to alleviate the dread and misery that dominates much of the runtime.
Once more, Peele builds his film around a terrific central performance or in this case, two. Lupita Nyong’o is fantastic as Adeline and her Tethered counterpart Red, juggling the needs of these dual roles. Projecting strength and heroism as the more sympathetic Adeline and a more unsettling and evil aura as Red who moves around the screen like a bloodthirsty ballet dancer. It’s a great pair of performances, but it’s Red who steals the film with Nyong’o clearly having a great time channelling her inner scissor wielding psycho. We also have stellar supporting turns from Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex and Elisabeth Moss, all of whom excel at making their dual performances distinct and disturbing.
On a technical level, Us is a far more accomplished beast than Get Out, its more polished and stylish approach displaying Peele’s growing confidence as a film-maker. The cinematography is superb, creating a creepy and disturbing atmosphere, with it mixing with the spooky musical score to create some fantastic set pieces. The high point of the film is in the final confrontation between Red and Adelaide, a brilliantly staged scene in which the two battle to the tune of a dark orchestral re-arrangement of the rap song “I Got 5 On It”.
As with Get Out, Peele uses Us as a way to use horror as a form of social commentary on the state of the world. While Get Out was a sly satire on race relations in modern America, Us spreads its canvas further, acting as a commentary on class and economic inequality among other subjects. Further clues as to the film’s meanings are also hidden in the title, with it being about “us” and the darker qualities that we all like to hide deep down inside ourselves. Although, the most timely social commentary that the film offers (especially given the political situation in the country) is the “US”. A notion that, while not focused on too heavily, is chillingly evidenced by Red who when asked ‘who are you?’ replies ‘we are Americans‘.
As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed Us. With superb dual performances across the board, a much darker and visceral approach to both its horror and its social commentary, Us cements Jordan Peele as one of my favourite directors working in the horror genre today. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. Check this one out.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★