When word got out that Jordan Peele’s horror follow-up to 2017’s hit film “Get Out” was announced many horror fans were ecstatic. I wasn’t able to catch it during its opening weekend, the best time to see a horror film, but finally saw the much-anticipated film a few days ago. “Us” follows the Winston family on their annual trip to the family’s cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains for a getaway. One night during their stay they encounter four individuals who quickly show they aren’t there to play nice. The home invasion becomes much more sinister as the Winston’s realize the group’s resemblance; themselves.
Doppelgangers aren’t new to cinema, but are definitely a lesser used horror component to the genre; thus whatever we would see would be a refreshing change to the overused tropes of masker killers, ghosts and witches. What “Us” gives the viewers is so much more. From top to bottom the cast is stellar in their roles, but by far the greatest was that of Lupita Nyong’o. Whether she is playing Adelaide or her doppelganger Red, Nyong’o presents the needed personality with gravitas. For the characters’ interactions with each other Nyong’o seemingly flips from terrified to terrifying. It’s not just a change in tone or facial expressions that show the differences. Each cast member does a great job with physicality to transfer the horror deeper into the minds of the audience. Winston Duke’s counterpart is a brute that yells physical presence once on screen and the son’s doppelganger swiftly runs on all fours like a chimpanzee/spider hybrid. Visually they are altered in various ways that show a lack of humanity as if their eyes are gateways to nothing.
The scene that the family meets the “tethered” versions of themselves is rollercoaster of emotions; humor, suspicion, and fright- even if you’ve seen it in the trailer. Peele’s expertise and love for the genre shine in both the script and what we see onscreen. The screenplay blends the trope of “fear of the other” with fear of yourself, in a brilliant fashion; making you ask yourself “would you be able to take on yourself both physically and mentally in a similar situation?” Gore, for the most part, is masked off-screen letting your imagination paint the picture of the brutality- a tactic gravitates to the subconcious.
It’s evident that his passion is sprinkled throughout “Us” as there are nods to films like “Jaws” and other classics. True cinephiles will be gitty during these moments. It’s easy to screw up a film like this with a more unconventional story, but the film delivers exceptionally with this. Never once was I rolling my eyes for actions taken. Even the jokes, which there are a handful of heavy hitters, felt natural in their own right. My only gripe is the exposition used. Personally, I find a sense of mystery more rewarding as you leave the film contemplating and coming up with your own theories or connecting the dots., but it didn’t ruin the film by any means.
The most overlooked component of any given horror film is its score. For some movies the music works as the emotional backbone that heightens the feeling that the director is trying to market towards the audience- Michael Abels’s score does exactly that. Luniz’s “I got 5 on it” is played in the car during a lighter moment to only be transformed into a much darker version with the use of an ambient orchestra that sends rhythm and chills through your body.
I hope that Universal Studios continues its collaboration with Peele as he is quickly emerging as one of the stand-out horror filmmakers and could possibly be the modern version of Alfred Hitchcock for the studio. Similar to “Get Out”, “Us” offers more rewards on repeated viewings, not just for its easter eggs but uncovering narrative and thematic elements that are living right beneath the surface of the film.