Jordan Peele certainly has a lot to live up to. His first film Get Out was a critical masterwork, and for a debut by one half of a comedy duo, he certainly disassembled all assumptions of his capabilities. Personally, I was unsure as to whether Peele could come through with a film that toppled Get Out, especially for someone with as weak knees as myself, and someone who isn’t an avid horror fan. But I’m delighted to report that Us is a terrifying masterpiece I don’t think I want to see again (but again, I am a wet wipe).
THE FILM LEADS YOU TO EXPECT JUMP-SCARES GALORE WITH THIS OPENING, BUT IT ENDS IN A WAY THAT LETS YOU KNOW THAT YOU’RE WATCHING ANYTHING BUT A GENERIC HORROR FILM.
The film opens in a way that you’d expect, a flashback detailing a young Adelaide Wilson (later played by the stellar Lupita Nyong’o) and the traumatic experience that kickstarts the plot of the film. The film leads you to expect jump-scares galore with this opening, but it ends in a way that lets you know that you’re watching anything but a generic horror film and that it won’t reduce itself to cheap tactics to scare you. As the camera opens with Adelaide’s family on their way to Santa Cruz, the dynamic of the family is introduced quickly, with charming father Gabe (played by Winston Duke) giving a performance that lasts through the film as a commanding figure, but also a wonderfully out of touch, cringey dad. Throughout the film, he serves as comedic relief, but at no point does it become overbearing, thankfully improving the tone of the film and allowing the family dynamic to settle, allowing the audience to inject themselves into the film with ease.
When the family of “visitors” arrive, the film wastes no time in gifting the audience with the sheer terror that the sinister nature of the family brings. Shit hits the fan pretty quick, and the performances by the whole family are stellar, with Nyong’o giving a portrayal that is especially haunted and filled with pain. Red (Adelaide’s doppelganger)’s movements and demeanor are so wildly animalistic and tactical that her abilities seem untamed and unstoppable, making her seem inescapable and unstoppable. The scenes that take place in the house are claustrophobic and dark, and the close-ups of the character’s faces are so hauntingly filled with real emotion that it’s incredibly difficult to remain disconnected from the incredibly authentic fear that the actors are able to present. And with all of this being introduced within the first act, it makes the film feel exciting and unpredictable (for the most part).
If there’s one flaw throughout this entire film, it’s the ending. The meaning of the film is made to be quite obvious come the end, and it slightly beats it over your head when you’ve already come to understand the important beats of the film. Despite this, the final act of Us is so incredibly tense and scary that it’s rendered unimportant. There’s still much to process beyond the main plot beats, and the final battle (don’t worry, no spoilers) is presented with such grace and with the best moment in the incredible soundtrack that the climax makes the tension lasting throughout the whole film. The framing of the shots of Red and Adelaide are tight and confined, and the emotion in Nyong’o’s performance combined with the gruesome element of the scene makes it equally difficult to watch and impossible to look away.
I have purposefully given you my views with no chance of spoiler because it is so important that if you are interested in Us, that you go in as blind as you can be after seeing the trailers. This film is filled to the brim with incredible performances that provide devastation and terror throughout the film’s runtime, creepy and sinister undertones that give the film a tension that never lets up, and a plot so creative that only Jordan Peele can present in the way he did. Peele has done it again, and he’s on track to be the most impressive and talented horror directors of our time- and with its massive box office success, all we need is for Lupita Nyong’o to win the Oscar she so deserves for all to be great in the world.