First of all, I hope everyone is doing well and staying healthy despite everything going on. We’re all in this together. In an attempt to distract from some of the horrible things being committed on U.S. soil, I recently decided to watch Jordan Peele’s second film, “Us.” For your sake, I’m going to do my best to avoid spoiling anything that isn’t clearly apparent in the trailers. Like Peele’s breakout hit, “Get Out,” this film is worth watching without knowing much going in.
The existence of evil doppelgangers is splattered all over the marketing for “Us,” so I feel no guilt in starting off by saying that the actors who were tasked with playing two versions of themselves did a phenomenal job. There’s a magic to the juxtaposition between the two families when you realize that each of the four actors had to play twice as many roles, often without a scene partner.
Lupita Nyong’o’s performance was specifically astounding given she has admitted to not having been a fan of horror movies prior to joining the project. The protagonist, Addy, is a fantastic stand-in for the traditional horror movie-going audience; she ‘gets it’ more than the rest of her family and is cautious from the moment she senses something is off. This is offset by Nyong’o’s depiction of Red, Addy’s evil doppelganger, who is terrifying yet surprisingly sympathetic. If her Oscar wasn’t enough to convince you of her talent, “Us” allows Lupita to show off her range and expertise in front of the camera twice as much as normal.
In regard to the plot, pacing, script, set design, musical choices, and cinematography, it sounds silly saying anything other than that they perfectly match the tone and themes of the film. Jordan Peele as a remarkable way of taking iconic songs and making his audiences appreciate them in a new light. It goes without saying, given his storied careers in comedy, Peele captures the exact amount of laughs that a horror movie needs to break up the tension. Interestingly, Winston Duke’s comedic timing is able to steal the stage frequently throughout the film regardless of whether it’s Peele that helps provide most of the power behind the punchlines.
It’s important to mention that, although it’s easier to describe “Us” as a horror film, I really wasn’t scared at any time throughout the runtime. Peele is able to capture a spooky tone and atmosphere dripping in tension and dramatic irony but falls short of actually making me want to avert my eyes. This isn’t a critique of the film as much as a warning for those who expect a pants-staining murder fest to temper their expectations a bit. Instead, you’ll be greeted by a remarkably paced suspenseful thriller about murderous doppelgangers. Given I’m not a huge fan of schlocky horror, I was glad to see Peele decide to take a different approach while still nailing all of the telltale marks of an effective horror film.
If I was handcuffed to a table by my evil doppelganger and forced to criticize the movie, I’d say that Jordan wasn’t able to craft as a believable world to set his supernatural horror-thriller in as he was with “Get Out.” Most viewers will have to make large logical jumps in their head to excuse some obvious issues with the world-building and explanations behind the premise. However, if you’re able to excuse having to suspend your disbelief more than usual, you’ll have a blast with Peele’s sophomore horror outing.