REVIEW: Us – Find Yourself & Your Own Worst Enemy
Our contributor Lorna Lovelace gives us her take on the blockbuster horror film “Us” starring Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke. Directed by Jordan Peele.
How challenging it must be for horror screenwriters and directors these days to present a fresh take on a familiar thriller flick to long-time horror fanatics. Thanks to Jordan Peele, it seems like horror movies have taken an interesting curve since the release of Peele’s debut film, “Get Out,” which received an Academy award and a great deal of praises from critics and film viewers alike. Now get to see your nightmares come to life in Peele’s latest satirical work, “Us.” This psychological horror film takes us back to 1986 – where a young Adelaide Wilson goes on a beach trip in Sta. Cruz, California, together with her parents. Adelaide wanders off and finds herself in a creepy carnival attraction, a labyrinth hall that’s fully surrounded by mirrors. A couple of years later and we get to see a grown-up Adelaide (played by Lupita Nyong’o) returning to her vacation home for the first time, together with a family of her own – her husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and son, Jason (Evan Alex), together with their similarly-rich friends, Josh & Kitty Tyler (Tim Heidecker, Elizabeth Moss), and their twin daughters. Here, we get to see Adelaide who seems to be bothered from an unresolved traumatic experience she has encountered in the past. Feeling uneasy with the creepy coincidences Adelaide have been noticing since their arrival, she tried to convince her family to leave the place soon, only to come across with the disturbing shadows in their driveway – doppelgängers of their selves. Asked by Gabe who these opponents of them are, Adelaide’s doppelgänger, Red, answered with a casual, “We’re Americans,” with Peele obviously implying a political narrative in this film to its viewers.
Who would have thought that the comedy writer famous for his funny sketches in Key and Peele would give us a smart and serious film that actually tackles class division and the ills of the society?
A lot of horror fans may find “Us” not living up to its hype as it wouldn’t give them the amount of gore and jumpscares that the usual slasher film would provide, but as for a political statement & social narrative, it gives off its analyzing audience a full, meaty chunk of it.
If you are expecting “Us” to be anything similar with “Get Out,” then you got it all wrong as it isn’t anything you’ve ever seen or felt before. “Us” isn’t a redux of “Strangers” or “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It is not your typical slasher/home-invasion film, although some of its scenes felt like an homage to the classic Stephen King chiller, “The Shining;” with a couple of elements from “The Twilight Zone.”
What really stood out in this film is its splendid and well-chosen cast, & their outstanding performances of their dual roles. Lupita Nyong’o takes the cake no doubt, as she brilliantly portrayed the roles of an intense, protective mother, and a creepy, evil shadow that would scare the hell out of everybody.
Also expect to burst out in laughter at times, as Winston Duke and Tim Heidecker provide just the right amount of comic relief to balance it out with the darkness of this flick. Shahadi Wright Joseph herself also gave us a satisfying performance with her portrayal of a sadistic girl, vis-à-vis a young, sweet teen who would rise to the occasion when the need to fight for the safety of her loved ones arises.
Elizabeth Moss also makes sure she doesn’t get overshadowed by the main actors as she showcases her acting prowess in her intense movie moments.
The collision of messed up imagery, beautiful scoring intertwined with haunting scenes and symbols – rabbits in cages, a room full of mirrors, an overwhelming, busy carnival park full of random strangers, choral chanting, and people in red jumpsuits and their sharp scissors, are some of the elements that make this movie not just your typical horror flick – they awaken all your senses, making you a part of the entire experience.
Unlike “Get Out” that was able to send its message on racism clearly across its viewers, the important takeaway in “Us” gets somewhat lost in a number of symbolisms and metaphors, leaving its audience hanging with a lot of unanswered questions.
The idea that we live in this world with a parallel universe where there are people living exactly the same lives as us in the same moment, but they feel that they are less worthy, doing things like clockwork, not knowing why they need to do what they need to do is just intensely brain rattling. Hopefully, this film tackling classism will make us realize how fortunate most of us are, given the opportunities and privileges presented to us, while the shadows in the tunnels live in fear and inequality.
There isn’t a dull moment to this film, & “Us” is definitely worth repeat viewings. Just prep yourself to have “I Got 5 on It” stuck in your head and singing it even after the credits roll. Know why this thriller received a 95% rating in Rotten Tomatoes by experiencing the terror yourself. Just watch it with an open mind and enjoy. Trying to pick it apart will just take away the whole fun off it. “Us” is now showing nationwide with an R-16 rating, distributed by Columbia Pictures.