In 1986, Adelaide Thomas went into a funhouse in Santa Cruz and saw something horrifying. She’s never said what that thing was, but it’s clear that she’s done everything in her power to avoid going near that place. How unfortunate for her when her husband, Gabe, and two children, Zora and Jason, insist that they go to Santa Cruz to visit friends. And that misfortune only grows when the very thing Adelaide saw in that funhouse all those years ago, an evil doppelgänger, arrives with clones of the whole family, looking to kill them all. Will they survive? Watch the movie and find out.
It’s hard to overstate how big a deal Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, was. In addition to winning an Oscar for Best Screenplay, the film made over $250 million against a $4.5 million budget. So when you have a film that’s as big a hit as that, you’re always going to be living up to a certain expectation. People will inevitably compare whatever else you make to that first flick. Which is unfair, and should not be done to Us, Jordan Peele’s sophomore feature, because it is a totally different movie to Get Out. Peele has stated that whereas Get Out was a social statement disguised as a horror movie, Us is just a straightforward scary flick. And it is most certainly that. If there are statements being made in Us, they’re much more subtle than Get Out, and, in my opinion, this movie works best if you don’t go into it looking for messages, and just enjoy the ride. And it is one hell of a ride. As soon as the doppelgängers show up in the driveway, and start terrifying Adelaide and her family, the film becomes a never-ending sequence of tension and fear. There are some immaculately composed shots, and some exquisite editing, that work together to crank the anxiety up to 11. It’s clear when you watch the flick that Peele has a bigger budget than with Get Out, and that he’s more confident behind the camera this time around because he uses a more full bag of cinematic tricks. At the climax, for instance, where Adelaide fights her double, he uses an acoustic cover of Luniz’s “I Got Five On It,” and constantly cuts between the battle and a ballet recital. Watching this sequence, you can tell, “Ok, this is a guy who really knows what he’s doing, and wants to use all the tools at his disposal to make something unique and entirely his own.” And as if this needs saying, the performances are all terrific. Lupita Nyong’o is the heart and soul of the movie. She’s in virtually every scene and has to show a huge range of emotions. She and the rest of the actors playing the main family also have the difficult task of performing dual roles, and they pull it off. But my favorite character in the movie is probably Gabe, Adelaide’s husband, who is played by another Black Panther alum, Winston Duke. He is so funny, so dorky, and so lovable. He provides a much-needed breath of levity from the terror, and I can’t wait to see him, and everyone in this film, in more stuff.
Now, with all that said, the film does have a few problems. The first 15 minutes or so, where we’re introduced to Adelaide, her family, and their annoying friends, are a little bit boring. They’re not bad, just a bit slow. The movie noticeably picks up when the doppelgängers arrive. And speaking of the doppelgängers, their “plan,” which I won’t spoil here, doesn’t really make sense if you think about it too hard. There’s also a ton of logistical questions that don’t really get answered by the end of the movie, such as “How/why were the clones made?” “How did certain people survive underground for so long?” and “Is the turmoil even over at the end?” Us might be a more competently crafted film as far as directing and editing are concerned, but Get Out is a much better-written flick, with a more focused narrative and fewer logical gaps. Granted, none of those things really stop you from enjoying the movie. And a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required for all moviegoing. Peele has stated he modeled the film’s story off an old Twilight Zone episode, “Mirror Image,” and if you’ve ever seen an episode of The Twilight Zone, you know that logic really isn’t a factor there. For instance, how/why is a monster on the wing of a plane in “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet?” Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it’s there, and Captain Kirk has to deal with it. So, in the end, if you want to watch a well-made, well-acted horror flick, with a weird, Twilight Zone feel, give Us a look. It’s worth your time.