US: My Thoughts
Hey you. Yeah you. You Looking to get spooked? You are? Well that is a relief then because Jordan Peele’s Us might just be the answer.
The follow-up to Academy Award winner Get Out, Peele’s Us dances between spooky, chilling and importantly funny with such freedom it really is a joy to watch.
Us tells the tale of the Wilson family who are confronted by a family of doppelgängers at their holiday home in Santa Cruz, California. The doppelgängers arrive clad in red jumpsuits holding shears, no doubt inspiring countless Halloween costumes for 2019. Revealing anything more would spoil the spooks and scare that unfurl.
I should start by saying there aren’t enough descriptive words to describe just how fantastic Lupita Nyong'o is in this movie. Playing two roles is often a talking point even when it’s not that inventive (looking at you Tom Hardy) but to perform two such distinct characters to the extent where you forget they aren’t actually interacting at times is marvellous. This is the first time since Twelve Years a Slave (2013) that Nyong’o has had something to really sink her teeth into and I’m left wondering why Hollywood have sidelined her to bit parts in franchises for so long. This is early contender for performance of the year and, hot take alert, this will no doubt get some Academy buzz.
For that matter massive praise should go to the whole cast. Every single member of the family; Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), have distinct elements to both themselves and their ‘shadows’. Massive props to the team of people making sure the family looked sufficiently terrified, giving them just the right amount of sweat for it to feel real. Their interactions outside of the horror don’t feel hokey, rather it’s lived in, they joke to relieve the tension because what else would anyone do.
Final shoutout to Tim Heidecker and Elizabeth Moss for just being all-round great performers they both do a fantastic job giving their relatively small screen time. It’s always a joy to see when performers are enjoying themselves in a movie and you can tell this looked as fun to make as it was to watch.
The sound and music in this film is abrasive, adding to the suspense and tension in the build up and then exploding once the action commences. Every moving part works in tandem much like a haunted mansion; each element, each scare sends the audience through the gamut of emotions for a proper thrill ride.
Some have been critical of the use of humour, saying it take them out of the scares, yet I couldn’t disagree more. I think in a situation, like the one our characters, are put through humour can sometimes be the most natural response. Is it the most rational? Probably not. But does it allow me to enjoy the movie? Most certainly.
Does it have as much social bite as Get Out? The short answer is probably no, it simply doesn’t create the same incision into the cultural zeitgeist as Peele’s maiden effort. The long answer is it definitely wants to, the allegory of these doppelgängers being truer reflections of our humanity is plain and clear. Peele offers the questions but doesn’t answer them. Yet the question is should he? I think this movie is still as entertaining as Get Out if not as overtly poignant. An argument could be that Peele is forcing us to confront these questions rather than providing the audience with a neat answer to issues surrounding the Human condition and systemic oppression.
What Us does is create a tense atmosphere that it’s willing to undercut for some brevity after an onslaught of gore and terror. It creates a world where definitely benefits from the ‘Less is More’ mantra but allows for some pontificating at the dinner table. Sure if you unpack the world there are elements that just don’t add up, and sure the ‘twist’ may not pack the punch intended.
All that aside what Us does well is create frights. If your horror film is scary that goes a long way in my eyes. There’s not much more to say.