Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon, Maddison Curry, Ashley McKoy
R for violence/terror, and language
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Certain directors become synonymous with specific genres. For Alfred Hitchcock, it was thrillers. For Frank Capra, it was comedies. For Douglas Sirk it was melodramas. For Jordan Peele, it’s horror. Us is his second directorial effort and ultimately it fits better into the horror genre than even his psychological predecessor Get Out did.
Oscar winner Lupita Nytong’o (12 Years a Slave) stars as Adelaide, a woman with a fear of the beach. The triggering incident happened at a young age, after which it took years to emerge from her self-imposed silence. The film opens at a carnival where her 8-year-old self gets lost in a fun house mirror maze and comes face-to-face with her doppelganger.
Years later, still with a healthy fear of the beach, Adelaide and her family have decided to spend their vacation with another family on that very same beach. When her doppleganger, and those of her family, shows up at their vacation house, it becomes a fight for their lives as the mysteries surrounding the dopplegangers slowly reveal themselves.
Peele’s freshman effort, Get Out, was a superb achievement, but Us demonstrates his ability to evoke complex emotions from the audience, weave a fascinating narrative, and call back to horror history in an effort to inform and terrify modern audiences. Nyong’o delivers a stellar performance as Adelaide and her doppleganger Red while the rest of the cast acquits itself nicely with the material.
Peele’s sophomore outing proves that Get Out was no fluke. Us is a thrilling, gripping horror film that understands its predecessors and uses that influence to good effect. Like Wes Craven and John Carpenter before him, Peele has begun to carve out a niche in the horror genre that rivals any other preeminent director working in the genre. His ability to wrap symbolism around his frights and speak to society’s inner demons is reminiscent of the kind of rich, detailed work Alfred Hitchcock put out for most of his American career.
With just two films under his belt, it’s clear that decades from now there will be classes specifically digging into Peele’s works and there will be plenty of imitators doing their best to make the most Peelian film they possibly can in homage to the impending master of horror. And like Hitchcock, Capra, and Sirk before him, he will hopefully spread his wings beyond the genre that defines him and show the world what a world class director looks like and earn a reputation beyond the genre and into the future.
With heady themes about American identity, class systems, and other fascinating topics, there’s nothing in Us that doesn’t demand to be analyzed. Similar to Hitchcock’s use of symbolism in his films, Peele delves into the concept with gusto and fills each frame with metaphors, clues, and fear in equal and provocative measure.
Potentials: Picture, Actress (Lupita Nyong’o), Original Screenplay, Original Score, Film Editing
December 27, 2019