Jordan Peele returns to cinemas with another blood curdling horror watch in Us, which strikes out at its audience with plenty of dread and which will leave a cold chill running down your spine.
Set in present day along the iconic Northern California coastline, Us, stars Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson, a woman returning to her beachside childhood home with her husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), and their two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex) for an idyllic summer getaway.
Haunted by an unexplainable and unresolved trauma from her past and compounded by a string of eerie coincidences, Adelaide feels her paranoia elevate to high-alert as she grows increasingly certain that something bad is going to befall her family.
After spending a tense beach day with their friends, the Tylers (Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon), Adelaide and her family return to their vacation home. When darkness falls, the Wilsons discover the silhouette of four figures holding hands as they stand in the driveway. Us pits an endearing American family against a terrifying and uncanny opponent: doppelgängers of themselves.
If their is one man who is redefining the horror genre through his own vision then it is most definitely Jordan Peele. While he may have made his name as an all around funny man, he proved himself to be extremely fluent with the horror genre, and the result was 2017’s lauded Get Out. Now the esteemed writer/director returns to the cinema screen with another twisted gem with Us, and this time he’s raising the stakes with terrifying results.
A word of warning, Us is not Get Out Part Two. This is a brand new and completely original horror film and where Get Out veered toward the psychological horror genre, here in Us, Peele goes for his audiences jugular with plenty of hack and slash gore. Fresh, original and totally unique, Us is loaded with symbolism and plenty of edge of your seat scares and the resulting picture is something that will lead you to suffer nightmares for many nights to come.
Without wandering into spoiler territory Us could best be described as a hostage movie that finds normal middle class family The Wilson’s consisting of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), who come to meet their terrifying alter-egos in an event that leads to a full-on game of cat and mouse. And the resulting action that explodes from this twisted confrontation sets your heart into overdrive in a film that is pure fight or flight.
Balancing a contemporary script, that is tinged with Peele’s love for 1980s horror, Us comes across as a very personal movie from Peele. While it carries thematic elements related to contemporary American society and the issues that are present within it, the film is an absolute love letter to classic horror from the genre’s zenith, the 1980s, and the result is a film that will have you on edge. In terms of shear scares, I’d outline the film’s first act as being the scariest, with everything coming to a head when the Wilson’s confront the antagonistic Tethered for the first time, and from there the film rolls forward into a full-on slasher movie with plenty of gore to treat the horror hungry amongst the audience.
Giving a scene stealing performance is Lupita Nyong’o as the film’s central character Adelaide Wilson and her nefarious doppelgänger Red. As Adelaide, Nyong’o comes across as your everyday American mum, who soon has to rise to the challenge and except and face her own fears for the very safety of her family. Her performance as Adelaide is tinged with everyday normality and realism, and thus she’s the perfect character to take the audience with her on this twisted journey into a very savage heart of darkness. And that’s when Red arrives on the scene. A jagged mirror image of Adelaide, and leader of the Tethered, who has decided that it is time to take back what is there’s. As Red, Nyong’o really gets under your skin, and her hallow facial expression, bloodshot eyes and shrill voice present the picture of a hungry monster who is possessed of a crazed bloodlust….and she damn well scared the hell out of me.
Offering Nyong’o a good helping of support in the film is Winston Duke who sheds his alpha male Marvel persona, and instead goes full dad bod as Adelaide’s husband Gabe, and his monstrous doppelgänger Abraham. Seeing Duke in such a dramatically different role was real fun to watch, and really gives him a vehicle to show off his all-around talent as a performer. Between Gabe’s fake heroism and Abraham’s carnivorous brutality, Duke also shines through with plenty of humour. His wisecracks in the most unexpected of places break the mounting tension, and add to the satirical nature of Us and help shine a light on director Jordan Peele’s unique frame of view for horror cinema.
Thematically, Us is a very interesting study of the Shadow Side, an idea that has become a key tenement of Jungian psychology, and which here takes literal physical form thanks to the Tethered. But while these red-jumpsuited villains are prone to terrible actions, Peele also takes the time to showcase their own point-of-view and it is an interesting thing for a horror movie to do. By taking the time to get to know our villains, and in essence our darker selves, Peele is able to examine the human condition and the line that exists between good and evil.
Added to this unique philosophy is Us’s very own slasher movie fun, and for those who like their horror movies scary, well, you’ve come to the right place. From the tightrope bound suspense of the film’s first act to the rapid fire slice and dice chase that bursts onto the screen thanks to the arrival of the Tethered, Us will have you jumping out of your seat again and again with all of it’s chilling moments.
So, if you’re looking for plenty of blood curdling nightmares then Us is the horror movie that you’ve gotta line up for. Original, clever, funny and freakishly scary, Us is horror cinema done right.
Image: Universal Pictures