Movie Review: ‘Us’

In 2017, Jordan Peele brought us Get Out, an Oscar-winning thriller that balanced genuine chills and satirical humor while delivering a piercing commentary on racism in America. His directorial debut was so good, in fact, that undue pressure has been put on his follow-up film, Us. It has some big shoes to fill, sky-high expectations a second-time director should never have to worry about. Peele is, in effect, in direct competition with himself – just like the protagonists of his latest home invasion nightmare.

The movie starts off in 1986, where young Adelaide wanders off by herself while at an amusement park with her parents. While alone in a fun house, she sees something that terrifies her to her very core, changing her life forever. Now 30 years later, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) has put the trauma of her childhood behind her. With loving husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and her two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) in tow, the solidly middle-class Wilson family embark on a family vacation to their beach home in Santa Cruz, the same town where Adelaide was emotionally scarred all those years ago. But the family fun comes to a quick end when the Wilsons find four people standing menacingly outside their home – four people that look almost identical to them.

It’s worth noting early on that in a lot of ways, Us is a very different kind of film than Get Out. Slightly lacking in his debut’s tight run-time and clear social message, what is evident is that Peele is no skilled imitator; his films are wholly unique, and are his and his alone. While his latest is much more of a straight horror movie, it clearly shares DNA with that of his first picture. A Jordan Peele film is made with a desire not just to scare, but to cleverly deconstruct the issues at play in modern day America. Us more than fits the bill, attempting to tackle income inequality the way Get Out nailed racial tensions. And it’s scary as hell.

As is common with films of great ambition, there are a ton of ideas being thrown around in Us – some work, some don’t. But even in the moments that don’t quite land, there’s a grace to the messiness that makes it undeniably magnetic. Peele has come up with a killer concept, but all would be for naught without visuals that could do it justice. Shot by It Follows cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, Us is stunning to look at, with creeping camerawork that embraces shadows and reflections at every opportunity. Michael Abels’ chilling score, which alternates between hymnal and discordant, brings the already jacked up tension to the forefront. With duality as a main theme here, one track in particular stands out: a creeped-out remix version of the hip-hop classic “I Got 5 On It”, which eerily flips the song on its head.

One thing that is crucial to so many great horror movies is the presence of that object, the one that sends shivers through your body with just a glance. Us gives the viewers plenty to choose from, be it the sight of the red jumpsuits the doppelgängers wear, horde of white rabbits, or that gleaming pair of gold scissors so prominently featured in the film’s promotional material. By the end, everyday objects have become the ultimate instruments of terror – and Peele has solidified himself as one of the absolute masters of the horror game.

Us is now playing in Miami theaters. For showtimes, click here.

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