Jacob Richardson | 26/03/2019
A terrifying, funny, beautiful and engrossing horror sophomore feature from director Jordan Peele.
Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe (Winston Duke) take their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) to their summer holiday house. Gabe wants to take the children to the beach, but a repressed childhood memory for Adelaide makes her uneasy with the idea. In the end, she is right to be; no sooner than they are back than a family of doppelgangers shows up. Dressed in red jumpsuits and carrying gold-plated scissors, this shadow family is intent on terrorizing the holidaying group.
Jordan Peele absolutely stunned and delighted with his smart, affecting racism metaphor, Get Out. Even though it was his first feature as a director, it was critically acclaimed, and many questioned whether Peele was the next great horror master. Well, Us certainly proves that our suspicions weren’t unfounded; Peele once again manages to bottle lightning to create a smart, engaging, scary horror movie that feels at one with Get Out.
Us starts with an indelible, creepy premise, and builds out a world of expert horror from there. Peele paces the film incredibly well, and ratchets up the creepiness and all out weirdness as the run time ticks on.
He is ably assisted by an incredible cast of acting talent, all performing admirably. Winston Duke plays up the comedy aspects more, which is great to see as Peele manages to weave his two loves together. It is Lupita Nyong’o, however, who is the true standout. In dual roles, she manages to create such widely differing characters with incredible voice work, acting and physicality. For the viewer, Nyong’o has created two entirely distinct personalities; one gets as much from her performance as one would watching two separate actresses play the antagonistic relationship.
Not unsurprisingly, Us is also a beautiful movie. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis plays with the varying settings strewn throughout the film to great effect, investigating how to make a sunlit beach, a night-time beach house and lake, a tech paradise, an underground tunnel and even a huge landscape vista as creepy as one another.
Where Us doesn’t entirely succeed is in the pathos and messaging. Get Out was so, so strong around its central conceit. It had a very clear, well-defined and well thought out subtext, that was conveyed beautifully in every line and every frame. Us does a pretty good job of that too - just not as good as what has come before. The message around class privilege in America and fear of the 'other' is a little crammed in, the symbolism a touch on the heavy side, and even the metaphors are occasionally delivered with sledgehammer subtlety. For anyone else, it would be a masterpiece, but when we have just had a masterpiece delivered by this very director, Us becomes a great movie with one lingering thought; not as good as Get Out.
Us may not be as cohesive as Get Out, but it is still an incredibly well made, terrifyingly scary and deeply meaningful piece of cinema that cements Peele as an auteur.