Jordan Peele’s (“Get Out,” “Key & Peele”) writing, directing and producing chops are stronger than ever with his new film “Us.” The film’s story revolves around mysterious and murderous doppelgangers who begin to wreak havoc on the Wilson family while on vacation at their summer home.
This film is another great addition to Peele’s filmography which keeps audiences guessing and on the edge of their seat. The budget Peele was given for the film has definitely increased when compared to his previous film “Get Out.” Many new settings add to the grandeur of the story and keep audiences moving from place to place, keeping the film from dragging.
Peele’s writing in this film is fantastic and actually light-hearted at some points. Having such dark and serious situations build tension only to be cut by the realistic and humorous writing made the Wilson family much more relatable and builds a relationship between the audience and the Wilsons.
I also really enjoy the commentary on horror stereotypes, actions such as hesitating to call the police during an emergency, or talking to strangers in a macho way to illicit intimidation came off as realistic instead of unnecessary plot devices. It makes the viewer scared for their own life because they can sympathize with some of the decisions being made while reflecting on what the viewer themselves would do in such a situation.
The directing in this film is fantastic as well. The story keeps its foot on the gas, and with a run time of almost two hours, I was thoroughly entertained throughout. The camera’s positions and movements in this film force the viewer into the perspective of the innocent. Moving at eye level with the children illustrates the looming presence of danger seemingly watching from above. Shots that slowly zoom in or out at such a pace your brain begins to become anxious as to what will be uncovered. Long takes too close for comfort on the protagonists’ and antagonists’ faces illustrate an unrelenting dread.
The accompanying score for the film features plucked orchestral strings which create a sense of haunting beauty and hark back to horror score masterpieces such as “Jaws” (which gets a small shoutout) and “Psycho.”
Peele does a great job leaving clues or puzzle pieces throughout the movie to engage the audience and keep their minds racing as to what is actually going on in the story. With that being said, a second viewing may be necessary since the story itself leaves a lot open for interpretation. I don’t think this will be a problem for the film because the main ideas and points come across as well conceptualized, but I just think it is important to note most audiences will not come out of the movie understanding all of it.
“Get Out” had a similar style of storytelling where clues or phrases were left for audiences to figure out or reflect on. An example from “Get Out” would be not mixing the white milk with the colored cereal. Small instances like that show the depth of thought Peele has put into his films. The main difference in “Us” is that it doesn’t cover topics such as race and oppression in such an overt fashion.
The only large problem I had with the film was the youngest child actor. There were times I could see him break character and it took me right out of the story. The other actors in the film did a great job, but Lupita Nyong’o’s (“Black Panther,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “12 Years a Slave”) performance of the mother was phenomenal. There was not a second I couldn’t feel her pain, her anger and her determination; it was very inspiring.
I feel so privileged to be alive during this renaissance of high-brow horror. Although I do love my low-budget, tacky and sometimes terrible horror movies, this new era of putting time, effort and care into horror has elevated it to a new and exciting phase. I can’t wait to see what Peele’s brilliant mind delivers next.