Ever since the massive success of Get Out, audiences and critics have been desperate to see what is next for director Jordan Peele. Get Out was such a smart hit because it used a horror thriller backdrop with satirical commentary to tell a more important story about racial issues. When Jordan Peele announced his next film would be a house invasion thriller, many of us wondered what this story would really be about. With a considerably bigger budget, Us is bigger and louder than Get Out was – a logical next step for such an ambitious director. In an age where most blockbusters aim to entertain at a superficial level, we need more movies that manage to be both big and thought-provoking. Us is an instant classic that is both massively entertaining and deeply inspiring.
Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out is one of the most ambitious horror movies ever made. With a trailer that presents a gorgeous dream turned into a home invasion nightmare, Us invites us into the twisted world of Peele’s imagination. Once again, Peele is able to get such fantastic performances from his cast. Lupita Nyong’o delivers a performance for the ages, and Winston Duke provides pitch-perfect comedic relief. The kids (played by Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) are both a joy to watch. The rest of the supporting cast (featuring Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker) is fantastic from beginning to end. The two-faced set of performances allows them to show a great range.
Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out is one of the most ambitious horror movies ever made.
The visual language of the film is exquisite. From the trailer alone, it is evident that the film will be aesthetically pleasing. Us features some sequences that are strong contenders to be some of the best in the horror genre. It is a testament to Peele’s direction that the visual and music cues serve the story so well. The film is loaded with references and thematic symbolism. Us is not always subtle and there is plenty to savor at a superficial level, but there is so much to digest that you might go down the rabbit hole if you overthink it all at once. And, that will bother many who prefer more cohesive stories that provide definite answers. Much like The Shining, it isn’t perfect, but it is a horror film to be revisited again and again – like a recurring nightmare we can’t escape.
The film starts with a great sequence of a younger Adelaide Wilson walking at a boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA. It is a pretty straight-forward sequence of a girl getting lost while her parents are distracted having too much fun, but Peele’s execution is pitch perfect. What in any other film would be just a walk, is in turn terrifyingly intriguing. The girl goes into a hall of mirrors and is frightened to realize what her reflection looks like. Like with the best kind of horror, we don’t want to look but we can’t stop watching. The timeline then jumps to an adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) traveling with her family to their beach house in Santa Cruz. Resembling Get Out, the film bolsters a rich and often satirical and funny dialogue. This family isn’t prepared for what comes next and neither are you. The film embraces bold ideas and walks a fine line poking fun at various horror tropes while also adding refreshing twists. I found myself laughing while covering my eyes out of fear; very few films are that good at balancing comedy and horror.
Like with the best kind of horror, we don’t want to look but we can’t stop watching.
Much like Get Out, Us will please mainstream audiences and critics alike. Us is endlessly thrilling, but beneath the surface, it grapples with difficult questions that many would rather ignore. Most of us don’t wake up and decide to reflect on structural oppression. Us is a film that forces us to face our humanity, confront our privilege, and acknowledge what our lives could have been instead. It is a film that questions whether evil is a product of nurture or nature and whether society plays a role in creating it; a film that suggests that self-improvement, compassion, and unity is the only way forward. The film might pulls us too many different directions, but it will surely change you one way or another.
The fact that the film is able to balance comedy and horror while juggling so many moral, biblical and existentialist themes is a testament to Peele’s great abilities. Bolstering great performances and dazzling visuals, Us might not be as tidy or cohesive as its predecessor, but it is surely as culturally relevant (if not more). One can only hope audiences flock to this one like they did to Get Out.
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Main Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex