UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2019)

 

Director: Jordan Peele

 

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex

Guess who’s back? Jordan’s back.

 

Get Out was pretty damn good – for a debut director or a seasoned director, it was a fine effort. Rather than rest on his laurels, Jordan Peele has returned with Us, a more conventional horror compared to his debut but no less layered. There was already buzz in the air with news of the movie’s release and plot and a strong marketing campaign helped spread the word further so could Peele’s sophomore effort match up to his Academy Award-winning first swing?

The Wilson’s are a fine and friendly American family off on their holidays. What a great time. Accompanied by her husband Gabe (Duke), son Jason (Alex) and daughter Zora (Joseph), Adelaide Wilson (Nyong’o) head to the ocean-hugging home from her childhood. It was there that she suffered a haunting, traumatic experience in a funhouse and now she has returned, those memories and anxieties are back – and hard. When a mysterious family of four show up outside their house one evening, the family must fight to survive the night. However, the uninvited guests hide an even stranger secret under their masks – they’re exact doppelgangers of the Wilson family. In fact, we all have a ‘shadow’, one known as the “Tethered”. A Twilight Zone riff (which is ironic as Peele himself is relaunching that franchise), Us is crammed full of Peele’s now-signature conventions – the tightly-framed close-ups, the commentary, the lingering sense of dread – and is far more 'horror' than Get Out was. If you look closely enough (well, not that hard really) you’ll find plenty of winks and nods to classic horrors of old as Peele begins to tip his cap towards his influences. Part-paranoia, part-home invasion, part-slasher, Us has plenty to keep horror fans pleased, however, its contentious ending should also have them debating for years to come. Me? I thought 95% of Us was sensational. From the opening mystery to the strangers arriving and the chaos beginning, I was enraptured by everything I was seeing. When that ending came, I was slightly disappointed in the finding revelation/reveal – not necessarily the execution, but the fact that it suddenly opened the door to a lot of questions that would go unanswered. I deviate from calling them plot holes, but they are frustrating.

 

Frustrating is certainly the opposite of Lupita Nyong’o’s powerhouse performance. Her excellent showing stole the movie, whether as the doting mother or her throaty-voiced oddbod double “Red”, and she was effortlessly watchable and easy to root for. Winston Duke continues his rise with an affable showing as Gabe, the goofy Dad, and the two kids were ace too in both guises. In fact, the performances across the board were superb, Peele is showing he is adept at getting superb performances from all of his casts. He also isn’t bad at cramming his flicks full of themes and subtexts and Us is no different. Themes of duality, repression, privilege, and oppression are rife and when Nyong’o’s Red announces that the Tethered are, in fact, “Americans”, it becomes clear what Peele is going for. The oppressed minorities and unprivileged hidden away from plain sight by the powerful overlords above. The idea that out Tethered personality is actually the opposite of our natural personality, there’s plenty going on here and whilst Get Out focused on race, that’s not necessarily the focus here. Together, Peele and DoP Mike Gioulakis create a stunningly sinister world (seriously, the movie looks great) and there’s also time for some comedy to read its head too, thankfully never at the expense of atmosphere or tone.

 

Get Out’s success made Us a must-watch for horror fans, partly to see if Jordan Peele was a one-off or if he could deliver another satisfying horror romp. Happily, he has done just that. Us is a sensational sophomore effort, full of creepy imagery, a suffocating atmosphere and excellent performances. Whilst that ending may be a source of contention, the rest of Us is simply superb. What’s next, Jordan? Don’t be too long about it.

March 26th 2019

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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