Directed: Jordan Peele
MA: Strong Themes and Violence
The 2nd film by Jordan Peele (star of the comedy sketch series, Key and Peele), Us is his next project to the hit film of 2017 Get Out. Us follows the story of Adelaide as she, and her family, are set to enjoy a wonderful vacation near Santa Cruz, where Adelaide had a traumatic experience as a child. During one of the evenings, the family are attacked by evil doppelgangers of themselves and must engage in a fight for survival.
Us is one of those horror movies that stands out from the crowd. It dives into interesting issues and themes and tells an original story with great characters and clever twists. If you enjoyed Get Out, then Us should be next on your list to watch. But, if you thought Get Out was a thriller or a comedy of sorts, then fair warning, Us is far scarier.
The performances in the film are phenomenal, with the main family all proving their effective acting chops and Lupita Nyong’o in particular as a clear stand out.
Each actor plays not just themselves as these real characters, but also as their evil counterparts. Often the two versions of the character are paired together and there is a lot of incredible tension shown through their interactions.
Each actor really sells their character and their own faults, as well as the changes they go through on their journey of survival. On the flip side we then see the evil, twisted and soulless versions of themselves, which for the most part are a far more physical threat, using their bodies to give us an impression that while they look like us, they are most definitely not us.
Credit goes to Jordan Peele as well. His skills behind the camera are certainly effective to keep the tension high. The creativity and originality of his idea is backed up by his quality directing skills. His vision is clearly shown to us and every frame is shot exactly how he wants it. His use of colour in the film is also interesting to take note as it plays into the greater themes of the film.
The horror in the film comes, not from jump scares or cheap shocks, but from a real threat and a terrifying fear of being replaced by our other selves. The violence is brutal but comes in short bursts and only further serves to highlight the terror from the evil versions. It truly is a scary movie, not just from what we see, but from the ideas it proposes.
The music of the film is also a highlight. The score is carefully interwoven in the scenes to provide an added layer of tension. It is also an unusual score at times, using different sounds, layered together to give those added chills.
The soundtrack is also top quality, employing various songs into the scenes and keeping them there for added effect. No song is wasted, and each is used to serve a purpose.
There are quite a few interesting themes, ideas and messages explored in the movie. One of the most profound themes that stands out is the idea of classism, how some Americans (or just people in general) can live in wealth, while others suffer in squalor. While the movie focuses on the main family, it does provide us with genuine motivation and reasoning behind the doppelgangers attacks and it makes you question if one side is truly ‘evil’ or whether they are simply fed up with living a life of oppression.
The movie also references a bible passage from Jeremiah 11:11 quite a few times. The passage reads;
“Therefore this is what the LORD says: 'I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.”
The full passage talks about how the people of Judah and Israel have set up so many false idols and gods for themselves that God is going to punish them, reminding them that they have done this in the past and it didn’t end well for them then either. The movie reveals these types of false idols through each character’s own problems such as not having enough money as the next guy or smart speakers. The doppelgangers therefore seem to be some sort of wrath brought about by God in order to remind his people who he is.
There are some drawbacks, but these are minor and don’t really affect the overall experience. As with many horror movies, poor choices or inane arguments do pop up and drag the film down in those moments. It is an unfortunate trope of the horror film, because if characters made perfect choices every time, then there would be no movie.
Certain characters refusal to even take the situations seriously also lend itself to a level of frustration as its clear that the threat is real, yet their reactions to it are baffling. These are small moments in an otherwise brilliant horror film, but they are there.
Us has jumped to the top of my horror list for 2019 and serves as a testament to clever, original and sophisticated horror.
If you enjoy horror movies, something to make you think or something new and original, or if you enjoyed Jordan Peele’s last film, Get Out, then Us is a definite must-watch!
9 stars out of 10