Review by J.T. Johnson
Writer and director Jordan Peele gave us one hell of a debut when he unleashed “Get Out” in 2017. It gave us a unique look at race relations in our country and was also just a damn effective horror thriller. With “Us”, Peele takes a much broader look at America.
In fact, you may find it a bit hard to pin down exactly what Peele is trying to say this time out, but for me, I got the distinct vibe that he was taking a not-so-subtle look at class divisions in the country. Still, no matter the message, Peele provides us with yet another trippy and ultimately effective horror film.
The movie follows Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family as they set out to take a beach vacation. Soon, though, the family finds themselves terrified by doppelgänger versions of themselves. They are understandably afraid of this new development and it is set up pretty early on that this seems to be centered on Adelaide.
I don’t want to say too much beyond that for the sake of spoilers. However, I will say that the movie does take some serious turns that I wasn’t expecting and that was a refreshing change of pace from most other horror films. It once again proves why Peele is now one of today’s modern masters of horror but make no mistake about it, he pays his tributes to those who came before.
The film has many homages to previous horror films such as “Jaws”. Also, the cinematography seems to suggests a serious connection to Stanley Kubrick with long shots and sometimes slow setups to drag out the tension. Make no mistake about it, though, when I say that Peele makes this film his own.
The movie does, thankfully, have a healthy dose of humor to bring a little bit of levity to an otherwise intense movie. Winston Duke plays Adelaide’s husband Gabe and he lightens things up with disbelief about the family’s current situation and his arsenal of embarrassing dad jokes. When the horror does happen, Peele doesn’t just rely on the jump scares, a common trap of other horror films.
Sure, there are some jump out of your seat moments, but Peele definitely likes to tease his audience with creepy tones and settings that are enough to make your skin crawl on their own. The movie does go out of its way a little too much to establish that this is a straight-up horror film, perhaps in response to some people being confused by what genre they thought “Get Out” should fall into (it’s a horror film, but some people just didn’t want to accept that apparently).
Peele definitely went in a more ambitious direction with this film. After “Get Out”, I was a little nervous that we might have the “sophomore jinx” on our hands. Thankfully, that fear was totally unfounded as I found myself leaving the theater satisfied with what I had just seen and liking it even more as I thought about the movie’s themes and imagery.
This year has been off to a slow start. “Captain Marvel” kicked things up a notch a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad to report that Peele’s “Us” is a definite must see in a year that is finally beginning to bring out the heavy hitters.