Review: Jordan Peele's Sophomore Effort US is Incredible and Uses Every Minute To Build Terror
Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. For those who doubted Jordan Peele could replicate his success from Get Out (which, c’mon, did you really), don’t fear, because Us is here and it’s fucking terrifying.
In Us, we follow the Wilson family, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two kids, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), as they venture to their beach house to visit their friends Kitty (Elizabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker). During their stay, they are confronted by a group of people in red robes, who turn out to be doppelgangers of themselves. Absolute balls-to-the-wall chaos ensues until the end credits, which is sure to leave viewer’s jaws on the floor. That’s all I can really give you on the plot. Everything else is must see, and while I don’t think more details will spoil the film (I’ll sprinkle a few here and there), there are somethings that need to be seen to believed.
This is a Twilight Zone episode wrapped in a near two-hour movie, which Peele has even stated he was influenced by. The setting is beautiful, but not everything it claims to be. The people are normal, yet very strange. There is a lot of humor (some laugh out loud funny, some dark and causes tension), mostly displayed by Duke (who viewers may recognize from Black Panther.) Peele really came out to play here, creating tension even when nothing is truly going on, through beautiful camera work (shout out to cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, as well), subtle imagery, and strong, nuanced character development. The most notable is Nyoung’o’s Adelaide, who is damaged from a traumatic experience from a young age, highlighting her fear and distrust for the outside world. These key scenes are shown in very stunning flashbacks, reminiscent of The Sunken Place scenes from Get Out.
Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is fantastic here. Nyong’o and Duke play off each other so well, you’d be convinced they were married for real. His comedic timing adds some levity to her somber demeanor, creating a very fine mix of love and necessity. The kids as well are very fun; they’re scared, but also smart, as though they came from the Scream school of seeing horror flicks. These details contrast their doppelganger personalities, creating eight main characters instead of four, and it can be seen that the actors are having a lot of fun coming off as psychotic. Duke becomes stoic, Nyong’o hyper and unstable and the kids…well, just wait and see.
Like Get Out (I have to keep comparing them, but only for trivial reasons), Us is a slow burn, yet it utilizes every minute to build the absolute bonkers final hour. It kept me (and a few of the other people I saw it with) on the edge of their seats. While some will say Get Out is a socio-political thriller (it’s a horror movie, but this isn’t the time for that argument), Us is straight horror, providing the viewer with intense and very earned jump scares that scared the shit out of me. And I don’t jump easily. The slow burn doesn’t stick with just the scares either. There is plenty of blood to satisfy the blood hounds (not the dog), and it’s crafted to perfection. Peele does not unleash all the blood at once but sets up every piece like the maestro he is. Sometimes the camera cuts away, leaving you to imagine the horror yourself, which is so much more effective than just seeing it on screen. You never know when something is going to happen; that’s a rare feat in today’s horror.
Here’s the deal; last year I said Hereditary was going to get nominated for an Oscar and Toni Collette was walking away with the Best Actress statue. I take full blame for fucking that up. I’m not going to do that here, I’m just going to say I really want this film to do well next award season, so I’ll call it a family drama/thriller, that way the Academy doesn’t write it off as a horror film. But Us is as perfect of a movie as you will get. It’s not just a great horror flick; it’s a GREAT FILM in general. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s shot incredibly and, most importantly, it’s engaging and leaves you satisfied. I can’t wait to watch it again, to see things I missed the first time (which I’m starting to think Peele is going to be known for throughout his career). If I had a complaint, and this is just a nitpick (but I’m a critic and an asshole), I’d say I wish one, ONE measly shot, wouldn’t have cut away. But that’s it. Us is dope. You’re going to love it. I got 5 on it.