The followup to Get Out proves Peele is here to stay with fresh, original stories for the horror genre.
Jordan Peele proved plenty with his Academy Award winning directorial debut Get Out. Chief among them was his innate ability to plant seemingly insignificant clues only to reveal them to be major plot indicators later on. From Rose not wanting Chris’s documentation on police record to the family servant Walter practicing sprints in the middle of the night, every random detail inserted by Peele in Get Out comes back later to reveal its true purpose. He won’t tell you, he just shows you, daring you to connect all of his dots, proving how capable of a thriller/horror filmmaker he is. Now comes along his sophomore effort Us and he has no shortage of hidden clues planted throughout. In the first frame you’re shown a 1986 commercial for Hands Across America and the opening title sequence is rabbits milling around in cages. Leave it to Peele to create another near horror masterpiece with that bit of randomness that proves to be not so.
The Wilson family is vacationing in northern California – a short drive away from the beaches of Santa Cruz. Adelaide Wilson (a stellar Lupita Nyong’o) and her husband Gabe (played to corny dad perfection by Black Panther’s Winston Duke) take their children Jason and Zora to a lake house. When the suggestion of spending the day at the beach is brought up, Adelaide is visibly uneasy by the idea. In a flashback that Peele slowly unveils, we see a young Adelaide get lost at the Santa Cruz boardwalk at night and wander into an old house of mirrors where she makes a frightening discovery – a secret she’s lived with ever since. She reluctantly agrees to take the family for the day only to panic when Jason similarly gets lost near the same house of mirrors. The Wilsons return to their lake house where later that night, a family of shadowed doppelgangers cut their power and invade their home. This is an ideal place to stop; spoilers would only ruin the experience of Peele’s slowest possible burn that keeps you at attention for more. Reddit at your own risk.
If you’re looking for the same racial themes and satire Peele implemented in Get Out, you won’t find it in Us. Peele goes straight horror/thriller here and the black main characters are just that: the main characters. Peele is moving forward and expects his audience to do the same. Nyong’o handles the dual roles like a pro: the terrified expressions and vengeful actions of a mother protecting her children as Adelaide and the haunting, ghoulish stares of her double, Red. And for his impressive size, Duke’s Gabe is more hapless than his wife, helplessly bewildered, often hilariously, by what is happening. He doesn’t understand the full scope of what is happening, but Adelaide does. Peele is careful to make the distinction. The children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) more than pull their weight with the dual roles. Every terrifying smile and fidgeted jerk motion freezes your blood just as effectively as Red and Gabe’s double, Abe.
So who are these twisted, distorted versions of our main characters and what do they want? It wouldn’t serve anyone to tell you the answer here. The manner in which Peele frames his stories is an experience that while word of mouth helps it along, it doesn’t absorb you the way seeing it in theaters would. Peele’s striking imagery – scarlet red overalls, brown leather finger gloves, and golden scissors, just to name a few – stick with you after you’ve left the theater. You’ll for sure find an Us meme or two, catapulting it into pop culture lexicon the way Get Out did. And very much like Get Out, it’s a see-it-twice movie you discuss afterward for which bits of foreshadowing you may or may have not noticed. And the ending almost guarantees you’ll need to circle back to turn over every stone Peele put down.
Why you should see this movie: If you’re one of the many who gripe, understandably, about the lack of original ideas in Hollywood, Jordan Peele is here to help. While he draws inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, Peele’s stories are original and frightening. Get Out lent itself more to satirizing race within liberal ideologies, but Us goes for the broader slice at the audience’s throat – with plenty of comedic moments to spare. You won’t soon forget Lupita Nyong’o’s dual performance as Adelaide and Red; their face-to-face encounters are the unquestionably the emotional highlights of the movie. With every twist revealed, the stakes get higher and you get more invested in how it all plays out. Masterful pacing. See it thrice.
Postscript: The “I Got 5 On It” Us Remix slaps at first then sends chills down your spine second. It sets the tone in a major way.