Us is the second movie from Jordan Peele, and if you saw Get Out, you know how skilled he is at elevating the horror genre to something that feels simply familiar and yes, somehow simultaneously complexly completely new.
Us begins with a flashback to the Santa Cruz amusement park boardwalk in the late 80s, yes, the same place they shot The Lost Boys. Young Adelaide is walking with her parents, Russel and Rayne, who seem to be arguing quite a bit. Russel wins Adelaide a T-Shirt, then heads over to the Whack a Mole game while Rayne heads to the restroom. Adelaide wanders off and enters a hall of mirrors where she encounters a terrifying reflection.
Years later, Adelaide and her family, husband Gabe, son Jason, and daughter Zora, are heading to Santa Cruz for a family vacation. As they get closer, Adelaide gets more and more uncomfortable – it seems she has blocked most of the traumatic fear she felt as a result of her childhood scare. While there, one night the Wilsons notice a family at the end of their driveway. Without any spoilers here – the family breaks into the house, and as you’ve seen in the trailers, they are doppelgangers of the Wilsons. Terror ensues.
I can’t really say much else about the movie without getting into spoilers. As with Get Out, there are a ton of tiny details that you can pick up here and there in the setup of the situations that Peele uses to foreshadow the conclusion and add layers to the discussion of the ‘meaning’ of the movie. Unlike Get Out, the meaning in Us is far less clear and much more open to interpretation. That is either very good, or very frustrating, depending on the type of viewer you are. It is absolutely a study of the duality present in all of us, but does that stretch to a more social and geopolitical meaning or is it drawing parallels to the race and class divides currently present in our country? Yes, and no. Honestly, Peele has created a movie that is striking when you first see it, but falls apart the more questions you ask. Is it a thriller, or is it more a science fiction horror flick? Are the Tethered (the doubles) monsters, victims, or something else entirely?
It is definitely worth seeing, and if you are going to see it – do it in a full theater so that you can react to the jump scares with everyone else! Yes, there are some scary moments, and it’s bloody, but not too gory, if that makes sense. There are some genuinely scary moments mixed with some genuinely hilarious moments. The cast is exceptional. The story is interesting, but the work the cast does is what elevates the material, and once you’re no longer watching them present the story, you begin asking the questions that poke holes in the plot – which speaks to their skill.
- Lupita Nyong’o is absolutely amazing as Adelaide. She manages to bring a lovely maternal presence to the primary role and a terrifying abandonment to her doppelganger. She carries the movie, and once she begins to figure out what is going on, she’s unleashed as a mother determined to protect her family.
- Winston Duke is so good as Gabe and his doppelganger that you can often forget he’s also the guy playing the doppelganger. Gabe is very much a Jordan-Peele –style dad, there for his family but wanting to match up with his friend and co-worker Josh, who just bought a new car.
- Shahadi Wright Joseph plays Zora, and while the family is disappointed she no longer wants to run track, she’s convinced she’s making the right decision for herself. She’s almost better as the doppelganger who is incredibly unsettling.
- Evan Alex plays Jason, and his doppelganger is also terribly unsettling due to the skittering around like a non-human, which is always creepy as hell. He also does a great job realizing his connection to his double, and how to manipulate him.
- Elisabeth Moss plays Kitty and Tim Heidecker plays Josh, the friends that the Wilsons run into at the beach. They are stereotypical ‘haves’ bragging about their new boat, their new car, and her new plastic surgery. They also live in a huge house and are comically not into one another and Josh spends his time bragging about this and that while Kitty spends her time drinking. They pay zero attention to their kids. Both are amazing as their doubles, and Heidecker seems to be having more fun than anyone else in the movie, but he also seems to be in a different movie from time to time. Cali and Noelle Sheldon play their twin daughters.
- Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Russel and Anna Diop plays Rayne in the flashbacks to Adelaide’s first trip to the amusement park.
Overall, the movie is expertly performed, and well-crafted, but I personally did not care for it. I am not a horror movie fan, so the callback and homages to classic horror movies did nothing for me. I really enjoyed Get Out, and was looking forward to this. Slight spoiler-y side-note, the rabbits you’ve seen in the trailers do get eaten alive, quickly and off-screen, but still, they were screaming and that upset me more than anything else in the movie. I was very worried about that from the first time I saw rabbits in one of the trailers, so I used the site DoesTheDogDie.com to look up what the status of the rabbits would be in the movie, and I am very grateful to that site and will recommend it to everyone!
I enjoyed the experience of watching Us in a theater, but I find the more I think about it, the less it holds up. It’s a movie that just raises questions, but that might be a great thing, because it’s super fun to discuss it with friends!
5 out of 10 – just my personal and very subjective rating, you may love it, or you may hate it - it's certainly interesting and well-crafted.