Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elizabeth Moss
Synopsis: A family's serenity turns into chaos when a group of dopplegangers begins to terrorize them.
Genre: Horror, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R (for violence/terror, and language)
Runtime: 1 hr 56 min
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Many times, we are our own worst enemy.
Many times, it's not others who are responsible for our mistakes that turn our lives upside down. It's ours. But to blame someone else takes the blame and guilt off of us and onto another person, which gives us a brief but false sense of relief. As we struggle to regain our balance, we discover the inescapable truth that only by owning up to our mistakes and taking a good look at ourselves in the mirror can we achieve a true catharsis and move forward in life.
These are some of the ideas employed in Jordon Peele's new horror film, Us. Fresh off his surprisingly thoughtful and intricately written debut hit Get Out (2017), Peele delivers another metaphorical film infused with strong social commentary on the race and class tensions from our past and present.
With Get Out, Peele established himself as a new breed of horror filmmaker, one who isn't as concerned with scaring audiences as much as he is forcing them to think and reflect on our society and nation's history. I'm pleased to say that, from a technical standpoint, he exceeds Get Out's prowess as a thought-provoking auteur horror flick. Quite simply, Us is one of the best directed horror films in recent years. From start to finish over its near two hour run time, you are glued to the screen, entranced at times like Get Out's own Chris Washington. These aren't merely "good" shots, they're heavily motivated shots, infused with meaning in nearly every frame, from the opening scene incorporating a tracking shot of a young Adelaid (Lupita Nyong'o) walking along the beach and facing a thunderstorm over the water to a long shot of a room full of white rabbits, Us is filled with memorable and haunting imagery--a staple craved but rarely attained in a horror film.
Just like Get Out, Peele has also once again succeeded in delivering a supremely unnerving atmosphere for audiences, opting for very few jump scares and instead focusing on keeping you off balance--which is a good strategy since jump scares are gone as soon as they arrive but maintaining atmosphere suspends the audience in perpetual uneasiness. This atmosphere is aided by one of the best horror film scores in recent memory--one that perfectly evokes the film's unnerving approach. This is mostly thanks to the expert re-mixing of Luniz's 1995 hip hop song "I Got 5 on It", which was featured in the film's first trailer. The remix features violent violins in the vein of Psycho's iconic score, and, like some of horror's best scores like Jaws, contains only a few higher and lower pitched notes and utilizes them to great effect.
For all of its technical achievement, however, Us isn't as sharp and intricately woven from a storytelling perspective as Get Out. There are several plot elements and character decisions left ambiguous, some of which don't make sense at all. There are other times when characters, for whatever reason, don't perform certain realistic actions--a common flaw in B horror flicks but ones that were vastly absent in Get Out. It's frustrating, especially since the film is so well crafted from a technical standpoint.
Though it has some problems in the storytelling department, Us is a technically superior film from Peele's previous effort, as it's briskly paced, atmospheric, and delivers instantly memorable imagery filled with meaning and depth, an unforgettably infectious score, and strong performances, particularly from Lupita Nyong'o. This is the best kind of entertainment--thoughtful entertainment--and it firmly establishes Peele as a true auteur of the horror film, and I'm sure I speak for many when I say that I can't wait for what the future holds for this talented filmmaker.
Written by Anthony Watkins, March 31, 2019