Get Out director Jordan Peele’s new film sees Adelaide Thomas (Lupita Nyong’o) returns to the site of a childhood trauma with her husband (Winston Duke) and children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). After a few strange encounters, the family find themselves stalked by a deranged group of strangers who appear to be sinister doppelgangers of the family. Adelaide and her family must fight to survive and figure out who these people are and where they are coming from.
Us is another thrilling and agonisingly tense experience from Peele. Playing only initially as a horror movie before flirting with home invasion tropes and finally graduating to all out apocalypse, it’s certainly a film that keeps you guessing. Whereas Get Out maintained a sinister mystery around its runtime. Us has some surprises, including a final twist that’s bound to provoke some controversy, but plays it’s hand fairly early. Once the baddies are on screen, all our heroes can do is run. It’s not quite the same thrill as seeing Chris blunder through an environment packed with hidden threats.
Each member of the cast must play two characters. Lupita Nyong’o is fantastically menacing as the vindictive Red, and wholly sympathetic as the troubled Adeleid. Her eyes are used to menacing effect. Child actors Madison Curry and Ashley McKoy portray the young Adeleid and are as sinister as the twins from The Shining. Winston Duke shows a tender side to the imposing figure seen in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (our review here: https://wp.me/p8FNZO-Wf). His father figure provides some of the films funnier moments. There is a vicious sense of humour in Us.
Perhaps one thing that’s lacking is the focus of Get Out. The feels certainly more ambitious but a little less assured. Whereas Peele’s first feature kept me compelled through, I sometimes found myself lost in Us, wondering where the narrative was going, The final reveal of who the doppelgangers are certainly works thematically and has all sorts of parallels to real world sub-classes, but from a narrative perspective it makes very little sense.
The twist, does however, allow for some very playful imagery. Scenes in the doppelganger’s world beneath the united states are disturbing and reminiscent of Lynch. The red boiler suited antagonists are meant to invoke classic slasher villains like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. They carry scissors and wear a single leather glove. It’s an elegant and deeply sinister monster design. The doppelgangers’ are exaggerated forms of their above-world selves. It’s entertaining to see how some of the characters translate into pure evil.
Us is an intense thriller that is both terrifying and provocative. It may be a little messier than its predecessor but is still funny, scary and interesting in a way that seems to come to Peele naturally, though he should probably stick to one genre changing idea at time.