After the immense success of Jordan Peele‘s directorial movie debut Get Out last year, expectations were/are high for his follow-up feature film, Us. Rest assured that not only does Peele meet the expectations, he far exceeds them.
While Us is not as in-your-face as Get Out was, it’ll leave you in your theatre chair, mulling over and over about what you just witnessed. The various messages of the movie — we are our own worst enemies, the oppressed and suppressed must rise, we take all of our privileges for granted — come at you subtly, and like a great meal you truly appreciate its complexity once it’s finished. All of the ingredients and flavours burst on your tongue, and when you ruminate afterwards it all comes into focus.
Us is dense. It is all-encompassing. There’s barely a minute to catch your breath.
It follows the story of Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), a wife and mother of two who heads to a Santa Cruz cabin with her family for a vacation. It ends up being anything but idyllic when Adelaide’s childhood memories of visiting the Santa Cruz boardwalk unearth some horrible truths. To reveal more would be spoiling this latest masterwork from Peele.
That just sounds like a regular horror movie to me. Why are you calling it a masterwork?
Us isn’t perfect. There are plotholes and unanswered questions scattered throughout the movie, but overall they’re not serious enough to irrevocably damage it. I call it a masterwork because what we see in Peele’s movies (so far) hasn’t been done by anybody else in modern cinema (with the exception of production company Blumhouse, which helped bring Us to theatres). He’s taken a genre that’s gotten old and tired and breathed entirely new life into it. And not only does he add a new depth to horror, he’s also addressing societal issues and our modern world so deftly, it’s like a time capsule.
Is it better than ‘Get Out’?
This inevitable comparison doesn’t do justice to either movie — despite a similar feel and aesthetic, they’re very different films. Get Out was more blatant and rigourously focused on race, while Us is more of a commentary on humanity in modern societies. While applicable specifically to Americans (at least, that’s what Peele has said in interviews), Canadians, too, can take a lesson here about privilege. Akin to Get Out, ample humour, a trademark feature of Blumhouse horror, can be found throughout. This isn’t shoehorned, forced humour either; it’s organic, and it’s legitimately funny stuff.
Is it scary?
Yes. It’s pretty much non-stop suspense, with characters doing typically dumb horror things, like walking into a dark forest alone or leaving a locked car to face a foe. Us has a pervasive creepiness that wholly succeeds, and it’ll stick with you for days afterwards. Note that, like Get Out before it, there isn’t a lot of gore. Sure, some parts are graphic and will make you squirm, but this isn’t even close to gore porn. Peele excels at telling horror stories without all the blood and guts. It’s all in your head instead.
How is Nyong’o in the lead role(s)?
It’s a shame that actors generally don’t receive nominations or awards for their performance in horror. Not only does Nyong’o deserve a nomination, but she deserves to win whatever awards exist. Her duelling personas in Us are so vastly different, it’s quite a feat. As you’ve undoubtedly seen in the trailers, Nyong’o’s “evil” side is a sight to behold. She’s also one of the scariest and creepiest characters in recent horror, truly frightening enough that her voice alone can send chills down your spine.
So what’s the bottom line?
For fans of horror, Us is a must-see. It blends humour, scares and social commentary all into one enjoyable package that you never want to end. As with Get Out, not one second of this movie is boring. While some of the little plot holes may drive you nuts, and you’ll have a laundry list of questions at the end, there’s something very satisfying about the film. Us will get into your head and stay there for days.
‘Us’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.Follow @CJancelewicz
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