Jordan Peele. Horror genius. Dude made a movie called “Get Out” that won an Academy Award and was one of the best examples of using horror as a venue to talk about relevant topics in society maybe ever. Everyone loved it. Well he’s back with his second bite at the genre apple with Us. This one is brand new at the time of this post but the spoilers are already out there so we aren’t shying away. If you read on you’ll learn about the movie so here’s your final warning. If you haven’t seen it I think it’s safe to say we recommend doing so, and we recommend (as always) going in as blind as possible.
Reviewed by: Jake
It’s 1896 and Adelaide Thomas (Lupita Nyong'o) is on a trip with her fairly-affluent family. She wanders off for a moment and encounters a fun house. When she goes inside she becomes lost in the attraction after a power outage. As she looks for the way out from the hall-of-mirrors she runs into a reflection that isn’t like the others and is shocked to find out it’s her doppelganger. She runs away but is scared into silence by the issue and her parents put her into ballet as a way to get her communicating again.
Fast forward and Adelaide, who appears to be over it in her adulthood, is on vacation with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and two kids, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). They go back to the beach near the same amusement park to meet up with some friends, though Adelaide is visibly nervous about of it due to the memory of the traumatic experience. That night she confesses to her husband that she can’t handle staying there any more because of her anxiety and she tells him the story about what happened for the first time. Almost immediately, the power cuts out and they notice a family in their driveway. When Gabe goes to shoo them away they enter full-on home invasion mode. The mysterious family, all dressed in red and carrying scissors get inside with very little trouble and Adelaide and her family see that the intruders looked exactly like them. Chaos ensues.
The Thomas’ fight off the attackers and Gabe manager to kill his doppelganger but is injured in the process. Eventually he rescues the rest of the family on his boat and they temporarily escape by going to their friends’ vacation home. When they arrive they find that the family was already killed and that the attack appears to be much more widespread than expected. They are ambushed by the family’s doppelgangers and fight them all to the death before taking their slain friends’ car, when they are attacked by Zora’s doppelganger which they are able to kill with the car before driving back to Santa Cruz. When they arrive they are trapped by Jason’s counterpart and narrowly escape after Jason tricks his twin into walking into a burning car where he is killed. Jason is then captured by Adelaide’s doppelganger, Red, and taken into the funhouse and below ground.
Adelaide follows and confronts Red, who explains in a big ol’ exposition dump that there are doppelgangers of all Americans that are called “Thethered” and were part of some sort of a governmental mind control experiment. The doppelgangers were abandoned after the failure of the experiment and subsided underground for generations on scant resources while progressively going insane and losing their communication skills. Red is special though and she explains that she led the uprising that is now playing out. They fight and Adelaide kills Red before finding Jason and leaving. In Another flashback to the first night she met her tethered, it is now revealed that Adelaide is actually the tethered and she switched places with the real Adelaide back on that night. This is what made her seem unable to communicate and explains how Red was able to lead the revolution of the Tethered despite her young age - her communication skills made her special. THe family reunites and drives away, with Jason giving a skeptical final look towards Adelaide before the credits roll.
What the Movie Does Right
Acting, acting and more acting. The Thomas family is tremendously well acted (and well written) by all. Lupita Nyong’o certainly leads the way with two awesome performances for Adelaide and Red. Winston Duke’s Gabe is hilarious throughout, cutting into some of the thick tension. Both kids have good characters but will probably be memorable for their extremely creepy performances as their doppelgangers.
Us also excels in the technical department. It’s well shot, has a great score by Michael Abels and also a fantastic use of licensed tracks. Everyone will remember the role “I Got 5 on It” played sonically for this film, but I might have enjoyed The Beach Boys even more.
Finally, this is an immersive movie but that is really fired into the stratosphere by the attention to details Jordan Peele has as a director. He stuffs a ton of content into every shot of every scene in the movie. There are probably an immense number of deep and intelligent things he inserts and I can’t even come close to identifying how many times you could watch this film and see something new. That’s a great thing.
What the Movie Does Wrong
There was something beautiful about how Get Out both had immense, layered detail and a very easy-to-grasp concept and story on the surface. That combination of simplicity and depth played incredibly well together and made for a fantastic movie with a lot to takeaway. Us has PLENTY to say about who we are as individuals and how we function within the American class system. It obviously wants to talk about these things but this is a more nebulous concept in Us than it was in Get Out. There are going to be more different meanings for more people. The issue is that the main surface story here is bonkers. It is borderline nonsense. And it is interesting nonsense but mileage will vary. Among our group here at A-Z Horror, we had one person think that if he took the movie as anything other than pure allegory, he had issues with the film. Another said the exact opposite. That right there shows how this is a complex mess. It might have brilliance in there, but there is also brilliance to simplicity and there might just be too much going on in Us for its own good. That said, there is truly very little this movie does wrong and even that felt like too much of a blast. This is a good film. Therefore we get a mercifully short section, today.
Story: 5 - The story is a complicated, personal one. And it turns out that when translated to screen, it’s kind of a complicated mess. It ends up feeling lesser than it should given all that it does right.
World-Building / Immersion: 8 - Great acting for well written characters. Awesomely dense and re-watchable due to an immense amount of detail poured into each scene.
Scare-Factor: 5.5 - The home invasion part of the movie is great but it is very, very short lived and you also see all of it in the trailer. The Tethered (and the concept of a doppelganger that is out to kill you) are a great, soon to be Halloween-costume-favorites. There is a lot of comedy in this horror movie.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 8 - From both a visual and audio perspective, the effects are very good. I would have liked to see a little more of the violence when it was taking place, however.
Overall: 7.5 - I’m tilting this one way up. I’m not sure how quickly I will want to go back to this one, but there is so much to digest here that it will be pretty much infinitely re-watchable.