Director Jordan Peele took the world by storm with his directorial debut, Get Out, back in 2017. The picture amassed over $255 million dollars at the box office on a $4-million dollar budget, generated social commentary, and later nabbed Peele his first-ever Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Ever since then, moviegoers and entertainment writers alike wondered what Peele would tell audiences next. Surprisingly, Peele returned to the horror genre with another original idea, Us. With the bar being set very high thanks to his previous movie, the expectations for Us were somewhat unprecedented. But thanks to confident direction and another knockout script that presents new ideas, horrors, humor, and great character development, Peele has struck gold once again. Us is the year’s first memorable movie; it’s a horror movie that will require multiple viewings to appreciate its brilliance in showing us new horrors that won’t soon leave the minds of those that step into Peele’s new story.
Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.
Playing out like a two hour episode of The Twilight Zone, Us is very much in the same realm of Peele’s Get Out in terms of horror and humor. While some viewers might be disappointed in the amount of scares, I don’t believe scares are what should determine what is or is not a good horror movie; that concept should be thrown in the trash immediately. Horror movies set out to make you feel uneasy about what plays out, and that’s exactly what Peele does here once again, and he does it even better here than he did in Get Out (which is a great movie too). Once Us gets into the central plot of the story, the movie is relentless until the credits roll. Giving any more detail about the plot would spoil the fun and twists, but know that Universal’s marketing did a good job and kept a few fun things from being revealed. A big part of the movie’s relentless presentation comes from the unforgettable score by Michael Abels, which heightens the freights and thrills that come with every scene.
Working with a bigger budget this time around, Peele creates some outstanding set pieces and imagery with symbolic meaning that viewers have not seen in recent memory from a horror movie. From the beach to the home where the invasion takes place (and other set pieces that won’t be spoiled here), the red jumpsuits the home invaders wear, the golden scissors, and the rabbits just to name a few, are all unsettling and intended make you feel squeamish. While some symbolic themes and certain aspects of Us may not give you the answers you seek, it seems intentionally on Peele’s part in order to cause you to dwell on the horrors by filling in the blanks yourself. Now, I could be wrong about that, but undoubtedly Us will create numerous water-cooler conversations and present theories long after its upcoming release.
The cast, which centers on a family of four, each play dual roles and are superb as their normal selves and doppelgangers. Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o leads the family as the mother, Adelaide, and gives a bone-chilling performance. Performances in horror movies often get overlooked (like Toni Collette in last year’s Hereditary), but Lupita’s performance should not go unnoticed because I’m sure it still will be one of the best performances we’ve seen all year by the time the calendar turns to 2020. Winston Duke plays the father, Gabe, and provides the comedic relief at the right beats. The two kids in the family, Zora and Jason, played by Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, are both impressive in their dual roles as well. Along with smaller roles played by the likes of actors like Elizabeth Moss and , the cast of Us is sure to be among one of the best we will see in a movie all year.
As a director, Jordan Peele has come out of the gate making two grade-A movies. Some have mentioned Peele now being the next Steven Spielberg, but I think putting that on Peele this early in his filmmaking career is a bit too much. That’s not a discredit to Peele and the commentary/noise he has generated, but it’s more a testament to his talent and potential. However, I will say that Peele is now one of the absolute must-see filmmakers whose next movies we anticipate, joining the likes of Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Denis Villeneuve, and the aforementioned Steven Spielberg. Joining the ranks with these filmmakers shows how far Peele has come after making just two movies so far. Us is a psychological horror movie meant to send chills down your spine rather than make you jump out of your seat (though that might happen once or twice), and it’s a movie that we’ll be talking about now and in the months to come.