Dan's Review: Jordan Peele's "Us" is creepy, but unsurprising
Mar 21, 2019 11:58PM
By Dan Metcalf
Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, and Evan Alex in Us - © 2019 Universal Pictures.
Rated R for violence/terror, and language.
Starring Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Madison Curry, Anna Diop, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon, Duke Nicholson, Kara Hayward, Nathan Harrington.
Written and Directed by Jordan Peele.
The only problem with success is the next chapter. When Jordan Peele eschewed his comedic nature and ventured into horror/suspense with 2017’s runaway hit Get Out, no one expected it. The man known for zany TV sketch comedy delivered something akin to “Hitchcock on acid,” with social undertones on loan from Spike Lee. The takeaway from Get Out was an overall “creepy” motif, delivering plenty of “that’s mess UP” commentary. The world waited to see what Peele could do next, and his next movie is Us.
Us is the story of Adelaide (played by Madison Curry as a child and Lupita Nyong’o as an adult), who has a traumatic experience inside a boardwalk carnival funhouse after encountering her creepy doppelganger in 1986. Later in the present day, Adelaide is married to Gabe (Winston Duke) and mother to daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and son Jason (Evan Alex). During a vacation at the same place where Adelaide had her encounter as a child, an entire family of doppelgangers appears in the driveway of their vacation home, all of them wearing red jumpsuits and brandishing brass scissors. Adelaide’s “copy” is the only one that can speak and explains that they are the real people’s “shadows” who now wish to “untether” themselves. The family fights the “double” family off and eventually escapes to the home of their friends, (played by Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker), only to discover that their “doubles” have also appeared and taken drastic measures to assume their “real world” lives. Adelaide and her family escape again, only to find that the entire world is being taken over by the doppelgangers, with bodies their counterparts strewn all over the boardwalk. Adelaide must face her body double and try to end the conflict.
Us is certainly creepy, with all sorts of violent mayhem and intrigue around every corner. Like Get Out, Peele lets his comedic style show through with a few moments of humorous dialogue in between the more intense scenes of horror. The cast is well assembled, with Nyong’o’s elite talents on full display.
Even though Us is a solid bit of horror and suspense, I don’t think it delivers the same punch as Get Out, especially with the “twist ending” being telegraphed in the movie’s opening scenes. One disclaimer worth noting is that I wasn’t as enamored with Get Out as other critics, feeling it was less-than-par with Hitchcock, relying on a lot of implausible science and technicalities to cover a weaker narrative. Don’t get me wrong: I liked Get Out but did not think it was worthy of all the awards consideration and acclaim it got. The same pattern emerges in Us, but with none of the social/racial undertones of Peele’s first film.
It seems apparent that Peele is settling into his own horror brand, which can be a blessing and a curse (just ask M. Night Shyamalan). I hope Peele doesn’t get too settled into this type of movie because like Shyamalan, relying on a “shocking twist” becomes less shocking with each film. It might serve Peele better to try his hand at something a little different from Get Out and Us - before he gets stuck in the same kind of rut.