Jordan Peele does it again! After a refreshing take on the horror/comedy genre, he decided to make a full-on horror. This doesn’t mean that there’s no humor in Us. Mostly because there is and this “is this really happening” vibe is present throughout the movie. It’s only interrupted by moments of sheer terror that snap you back from that type of atmosphere. Earlier this year, you might have read Rabbit Reviews review of Ghost Stories, a movie that really scared me. This movie, however, was simply terrifying. There are many layers to it, keeping you engaged throughout and basically reliving that scene from Get Out. You know the one I’m talking about.
Us, the movie, has that Twilight Zone vibe to it and this is no surprise considering that Mr. Peele is the man behind the latest reboot of the series. He also says that the episode “Mirror Image” is a source of inspiration for the movie. Starring Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, the casting was top-notch. Although I must mention that the acting in the first segment seemed a bit off. However, when we meet the protagonists, everything falls into place, giving more authenticity to a story. A story that had to have strong performances in order to work properly. Lupita basically carried the movie, with a lot of help from the supporting cast.
It is the year of our Lord Satan 1986 and people are making the most of an innocent world before the nineties hit it hard. Young Adelaide Thomas is enjoying her visit to an amusement park with her parents that are not having such a great time. She wanders off into a hall of mirrors and sees something, something that seems unreal. Fast forward to the present day and Adelaide is married with two kids and on her way to her old house, now a vacation home for the family. Soon after they arrive, she starts noticing that strange things are happening, coincidences that seem random and yet predestined. One night, this will escalate when she sees a group of strangers dressed in red jumpsuits standing in their driveway…
Us features beautiful cinematography where every fifteen minutes you cannot help but notice the beauty of the frame. Confidently leading us through forests, beaches, and urban environments, it’s got that same sleek look from Get Out. At first, I thought that this is going to be a fucked up home invasion movie like The Strangers. However, it soon turned into something else, using all the horror gimmicks to keep us engaged. All this is accompanied by great sound design and a juicy soundtrack with Luniz – I’ve Got Five on It, a true classic, featured prominently throughout the movie. I just loved the ominous pacing with the careful setup of the story and characters at the start of the movie.
Once things start happening, the pace quickens kicking us into survival mode. Exactly because the characters are so well developed, we actually care what happens to them. This makes Us a very intense and scary experience, especially with the whole family angle, both reminding you of your childhood and your current life, even if you don’t have a family, you know what I mean. Jokes worked well and they symbolized the “care-free” sticker, prompting viewers to relax and enjoy the ride.
Before moving to a section explaining some of the issues I had with the movie, I must say that Us is a great horror movie. It features a lot of homage moments along with intense action, an engaging storyline, and great production values. Staying on the surface and scratching a bit into the story will leave you satisfied, but do not expect a new Get Out. This is a fun, little horror movie and should be treated as such, without getting into the deeper stuff.
I already mentioned Ghost Stories, another movie that had a strong beginning but ran out of air before the finish line. Here we have almost the same situation. The difference is the pacing and tension because we are too preoccupied with the destinies of characters to worry about plot holes and the main story. After so intense and engaging storyline concerning the bare survival of the Wilson family, the explanation for all of this seems a bit simplistic. Not to mention that it feels like they were running towards the end especially after so many elements (scissors, gloves, red suits…) came into play to prime the viewers.
And I know you can write these things off as allegories, but they still exist in the real world and play a key role in events that are unfolding. Mr. Peele opted out for a world without supernatural elements and I think that this was a mistake. Without magic or something otherworldly, you need to have a watertight script and one that will satisfy viewers after such a juicy build-up.
The final twist concerning Adelaide helped with the whole thing, but still, I feel Us deserved a better ending. The one I was hoping for seems like a much better choice. It’s a story about our basic instincts that we control with rational thought and discipline. They are always close to the surface, materializing and taking over our personality. Especially with the recent rise of populism and lack of thinking.
And finally, I have to mention that every time that the family got into trouble, they miraculously got out of it. Something followed by a distinct change of mood, done with music and funny comments. This broke up the tension, basically resetting the whole thing for the next scene. Now, I know that the general public is easily scared and offended and that this was a let’s say “a feel-good horror”, it still feels like wincing in the face of true evil. If you’re dancing with the devil, fully aware that you are safe, are you actually dancing with the devil?
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker
Fun Facts: Lupita Nyong’o based Red’s voice on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and specifically the spasmodic dysphonia he suffers from.