Jordan Peele had a huge hit with 2017’s Get Out and Us has been the highly anticipated follow-up for the director. Jordan Peele has become one of the top directors in Hollywood and the horror film Us cements that for him.
In Us, a family of four head to their summer home for a vacation. Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) arrived at the house and Gabe wanted to go to the beach. Adelaide was frightened about something that happened in her childhood when she got lost for 15 minutes and came across a girl in a fun house mirror who looked exactly like her.
Sure enough, after the trip to the beach, Adelaide was starting to freak out. When a mysterious family showed up at their home at night, the family realized quickly that their was danger facing them. And when they realized that this family was nearly exact copies of them, the weirdness leveled up.
Lupita Nyong’o was absolutely fantastic here, as she had to play the dual role of Adelaide and Red. Both characters were the same, but also totally different. Red’s voice was one of the creepier aspects of the movie. The rest of the cast was great as well. Shahadi Wright Joseph was amazing and was totally brutal throughout the movie. Young Evan Alex had a seriously physically taxing role as Jason and Pluto. And then there was M’Bako from Black Panther himself, Winston Duke, playing a character much different than the warrior from Wakanda. The film intentionally creates Duke’s Gabe as a lesser physical threat despite the largeness of the actor.
I realized immediately that this family was very smart. One of the worst parts of horror movies is how stupid people get as they are in danger. Not this family. As I am watching, I am thinking to myself what these characters should be doing and, more times than not, they did either what I was thinking or something that I thought was a great move. For example, there was a scene with Zora and Jason walking through a house where there had just been a violent murder and she walked past an open door. She stopped and, before she moved on, she shut the door. I thought to myself, “That’s a good move.”
I was not as scared as I thought I might be from the film. It was more of a uncomfortable feeling of tension as scenes developed. They did not resort to the cheap jump scares. When the jump scares appeared, they were earned. The tone was brilliantly set with the darkness of the shots and the wonderful score that created such a nervous wonder.
The biggest problem with the film was the gigantic exposition drop in the third act. Though delivered exceedingly creepily by Lupita Nyong’o, I feel like it derailed a lot of the suspense and the uncertainty of the plot. I did not need to know all of these specific details of what was going on. A little bit of mystery goes a long way. I would have preferred them to leave a lot of what was included here to the imagination. The scenes were still effective, but I think it hurt the film overall.
The direction of the movie was pitch perfect, though. Shot after shot was so well developed and so perfectly placed that it is obvious that Jordan Peele has earned the glowing praise that is being heaped upon him. This is less of a social commentary than Get Out (although there is a message here too) and more of a straight horror film, but he never loses the exceptional movie making to go for the easy bit.
Without spoiling, the twist at the end is a fascinating idea (that I did consider during the film’s run so the twist does not come out of nowhere) and it actually makes you reconsider some of what we know about the entire family at the center of the movie.
Are there some plot holes? Sure, there always will be, but there is nothing glaring that will stop me from truly loving this movie. I do wish they would have kept some of the answers to themselves, but the info is delivered so effectively by a superior actress that it only bothered me for a little bit. It looks to me that Jordan Peele has another huge hit on his hands and that, if he wants to continue in the horror genre, he could really elevate it to another level.