Us is the new film from comedian turned studio proclaimed horror master, Jordan Peele, fresh off the success of Get Out (2016). It tells the story of a woman Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), who as a child had a bad experience in a hall of mirrors at a carnival where she claims to have encountered her double. Now a grown adult, she and her family are visiting their beach resort when their doppelgangers appear and terrorize them. I’m happy to report that Us is not a sophomoric slump for Peele. In fact, in many ways, Us could be described as Get Out’s more dangerous, fast-talking cousin, and the experience pulls you in from the first frame and never lets go.
Comparing Us to Get Out again, there are actually many similarities, as one might expect coming from the same writer/director. Both movies begin with characters traveling somewhere. Both movies deal with themes of unnatural horror oddness, and both have a theme chant that plays in the background to remind the audiences of the incoming terror. However, it would be unfair to just Call Us, Get Out 2.0, because Us is far less restrained and lets itself off the chains quite quickly. In fact, it surprised and delighted me just how quickly the dopplegangers appeared to terrorize the family. If Get Out was Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, then Us is Invasion of The Body Snatchers. A horror film on an almost global conquering scale.
Us can sometimes seem needlessly convoluted, but as pure entertainment, I had a blast. The cast is relatively small. Aside from the family, there’s only Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker as friends who live near the beach resort. Lupita Nyong’o in the lead role is great in a dual role. First, as a woman who was mentally scarred as a child, and then, as the shrilled low-sounding, almost pompous mirror image of herself. The later role allows her to appropriately go over the top, smirking evilly, and not being the least bit subtle. She’s paired with newcomer, Winston Duke, who also appeared with her in Black Panther (2018). Duke’s character, Gabe, is mortified and confused, but also has great comedic timing (just about all of the intentional funny laughs came from him). He is terrifying as his doppelganger, who doesn’t even speak and just makes growls, like he’s some kind of animal.
The movie’s unsettling tone is supported by its limited location, production design, and rather natural looking cinematography. The lack of characters, and the fact that all of the sets are in and around this beach house, makes the tense build-up all the more terrifying. Just like Get Out, this is not a horror comedy, but rather, a straight horror film with some naturally funny lines here and there. The sound design should get extra points, too. As in all good horror movies, it blends perfectly into the background and adds to the rising tension throughout.
Jordan Peele is now hosting a new version of The Twilight Zone. The general idea of Us was inspired one of Twilight Zone’s episode, Mirror Image, which dealt with a similar idea regarding doppelgangers. Us is a horror movie, and many people may be turned off by the excessively bloody violence. It is R rated film, through and through, and a cavalcade of madness.
Now playing in Hanover at The Nugget, Monday - Thursday at 4:15, and 6:45 PM, Friday and Saturday at 1:40, 4:15, 6:45, and 9:15 PM, and Sunday at 1:40, 4:15, and 6:45 PM.