Arriving emphatically on to the horror-movie scene in 2017, ‘Get Out’ was the directorial debut of Jordan Peele – he of comedy-sketch fame via the TV shows ‘MADtv’ and ‘Key and Peele’ along with comedic films like ‘Keanu’ – and quite frankly, it was a stunningly good creative turn for a gentleman that most people wouldn’t have expected, given his “funny-guy” past. I had the pleasure of reviewing ‘Get Out’ for our site, which you can read by clicking here, and I’m just as excited to bring you this review, for Peele’s newest horror film, ‘Us.’
First off, for anyone who may be wondering: while the plot of ‘Get Out’ was interwoven with (accurate and much-needed-to-be-discussed) social commentary about race and racism, ‘Us’ does not touch on race as a major element of the plot; the family of main characters happen to be black, and that’s that. No need to get bent out of shape or swear you’re not going to see this movie for no real reason.
Much of the discussion surrounding ‘Us’ is contingent upon understanding that there is a climax to the film that you may or may not see coming; in our screening of the film, several people were gasping audibly at the conclusion, while others seemed to have a murmur of “mm-hmm” as if they “knew it all along!” There will be no spoilers in this review that you couldn’t have garnered from pre-release previews and interviews, so I will be keeping things vague in terms of the details of the movie’s ending.
The aforementioned family takes most of the center stage in the film – and that’s because the quartet each ends up playing two very distinct roles. The driving force of the film is the mother, Adelaide (Lupito Nyong’o), who brings her upper-class family back to her hometown for a visit to her extended family’s summer home. Her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) is a typical goofy parent with Dad jokes for days, and their children are fairly “normal,” as far as kids go: teenage daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) is tuned into her technology and social media and tuned out of the family vacation, and younger son Jason (Evan Alex) is a bit quirky but nothing too extreme.
Adelaide grew up at this summer home near the beach with her parents, and upon her return, some deep-seeded issues from her childhood begin to re-manifest themselves. It seems that she had a rather traumatic event in a beach-adjacent boardwalk funhouse (that faces the ocean instead of the actual boardwalk for some strange reason), and as a result, she has always been haunted, quite literally, by an “other” version of herself. Now that her family is in this town with Adelaide, there are “other” versions of them as well, and on one evening at the summer house, the four doppelgangers clad in red jumpsuits and armed with ridiculously large scissors come face-to-face with their real-life counterparts.
The movie is tense as all get out (hey, an unintentional Peele Pun!), and the sense of dread becomes increasingly suffocating as the story line progresses. While first coming across as so “over-the-top” and caricature-esque as the horror trope of “evil twins,” the doppelganger family (led by Adelaide) quickly and effectively becomes much more menacing than the viewer wants to believe. Whereas his first horror film needed the “twist ending” to effectively seal the deal on what was being presented to the audience, the path of the plot of ‘Us’ isn’t quite so clear-cut, and the winding path of the film’s climax is not written or executed as effectively.
In the grand scheme of ‘Us,’ however, this is a relatively minor quibble, and it’s probably not fair to directly compare it to ‘Get Out,’ since they are two very different films taking two very different types of story and presenting them on-screen. It’s clear that Peele has an uncanny knack for telling scary stories, and this movie should cement the fact that you’d do well to watch his next horror-esque creative effort, the new ‘Twilight Zone‘ series coming to CBS All Access next month.
For now, however, know that ‘Us’ is an effective telling of a very chilling tale: figuring out what is truly important to each of us in life, and the reaches we will go to in order to protect those important pieces. Peele officially has me on his list to watch/read/enjoy whatever he cooks up from here on out, no questions asked.
‘Us’ is in American cinemas now; ‘The Twilight Zone’ will premiere on April 1, 2019, on the CBS All Access streaming platform.