by Kevin Muller
There are movies, like any entry out of The Fast and the Furious series, that you invest time, marvel at the action, say something positive, or negative, about it, and then walk out of the theater. Sure, you may talk about it with your friends about the physic defying action, but it won’t hit you the way Jordan Peele’s new film Us does. You will go through all the motions mentioned, but it isn’t a film you will react to, but let sink in and digest. It’s the type of movie that throws so much at you, most of it works, and rattles your brain. It’s a very ambitious and worthy follow up to his first film, Get Out, which won him acclaim and an Academy Award for “Best Original Screenplay.”
Adelaide, despite having a beautiful family, a caring husband, and a comfortable life, can’t escape the trauma from an incident that occurred when she was a child. While attending a fair with her parents, she ran off into a fun house, where she encountered her doppelganger. She can’t remember specifics of the encounter, only that she had to go through tons of therapy to recover from this tragedy. Her husband Gabe, and two children, Zora and Jason, want the best for their mother as they are spending a weekend at the lake. Their friends, Kitty and Josh, are already there with their bratty children. Soon after they arrive, strange occurrences start to happen, with Adelaide experiencing some déjà vu. The climax of her paranoia comes when four strangers, dressed in red, carrying scissors, start to stalk the family right outside their home. Oh, they are exact replicas of them, but definitely don’t have the emotional depth of their normal counterparts. From there, the film dives straight into the deep end.
Peele throws so much at you. The Oscar winner is a talented film maker, so most of it sticks, but also some of it gets ahead of itself. Today’s horror films mostly use cheap jump scares, along with bursts of loud music, but Peele is not an average director. Yes, those two qualities do exist here, but Peele knows how to properly use them. One of the bigger strengths the writer/director has is creating tension through fantastic camera work, which creates moments of lingering tension. This time, Peele has an Oscar winner on board. Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o gives the film that little extra. Adelaide is full of anxiety and fear, but turns on her survival instinct in a flash. She walks the balance of being a normal person with devastating flaws and a tough bitch who you don’t want to cross. Then there is her portrayal of Red, the doppelganger, or as the movie refers to them, “Tethered,” that is downright terrifying. Her raspy voice, awkward facial movements, and overall primitive nature are all brought to life by Nyong’o. Equal praise goes to child actors, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, who really give it their all to their tethered characters. Another strength that Peele possesses is his comedic direction and writing. Winston Duke, who plays Adelaide’s husband, Gabe, is just as good as his on screen wife. Peele uses him as an outlet for the comedy. He is painted as a lame, but loving, suburban dad. With that said, his tethered version is downright frightening. Duke’s giant frame gives his evil double a Jason Vorhees type of presence that is very effective when he becomes violent.
As the film goes on, we are thrown down the rabbit hole even further. You may have an idea where it is going, but it goes beyond anything you can imagine. Where his first feature Get Out, was a little more intimate, Us feels like the director is spreading his wings and flying free as a bird. Peele goes bigger this time around. The set pieces are bigger, there are set pieces that are feel quite grand for horror, and it does take a lot of chances. The ideas are far more complex and this film will require multiple viewings. Peele, who is a big horror fan, stocks the film with throwbacks to classic horror films like The Shining and others. Peele’s ambitious nature does create some plot holes that will make you question the rules of this universe. The flaws though pale in comparison to how much he gets right.
Us is a horror film with an ambitious nature, intelligence, and humor. Peele definitely doesn’t slump in his sophomore effort. Though some of it gets a little too ambitious for its own good, it is masterfully made by someone who understands, and respects, the genre very well. Though it isn’t perfect, it still comes out on top, compared to many of the standard and mundane horror that pours out of Hollywood each year.
I am giving Us a 4 out of 5 Hairpieces!