“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.’” – Jeremiah 11:11
You can’t run away from yourself and unfortunately for the characters of Us, this is the exact problem they are faced with. Jordan Peele, the modern star of horror, is back and this time we’re seeing double as a group of mysterious and sinister doppelgängers rise up and terrorize our frightened protagonists. Though Us may not have the same story-telling precision as Peele’s debut film, Get Out, this embark into the dark tunnels of horror is just as creepy and just as thought-provoking.
The film follows the Wilson family on their summer trip to their holiday home. We quickly discover that our main protagonist, Adelaide played by the captivating Lupita Nyong’o, has suffered a traumatising childhood experience nearby this holiday home and her return has sparked some anxiety. Upon hearing of her husband, Gabe’s (Winston Duke), plans to return to the beach-side carnival where this incident occurred, Adelaide starts to exhibit signs of paranoia, convinced that someone is coming for her and her family. Eventually, her fears are met by the mysterious night-time arrival of a family outside their house who refuse to leave despite Gabe’s threats. It’s soon discovered this family are their doubles, intent on stalking the Wilson family. What follows is a twisted home-evasion story with mystical elements that soon turn into a full-out bloodbath slasher, all the while keeping the initial sinister feel.
The subtle story-telling elements scattered throughout Us are what we’ve come to expect and love from Jordan Peele. Peele brings his two greatest genre talents to work here, with Us succeeding in being terrifying yet also funny when appropriate. The Wilson family are an honest portrayal of families, with all their interactions seeming real and their devotion to keeping one another safe touching. Adelaide, in particular, is fantastic in her fierce protection of her children.
The whole cast really brings their own to these characters, playing likable main characters as well as their creepy yet often hauntingly melancholic doubles. Nyong’o absolutely shines in her performance as both fierce yet frightened Adelaide and brilliantly creepy and calculated double, Red. For most the film you’ll find yourself transfixed by Nyong’o’s raw talent as her characters fight with every fibre of ferocity.
As in most horror films, there are some plot holes. Us is certainly not as structurally tight as Get Out. However, Us is a far larger film than Get Out and the gaps in audience knowledge actually aid in the terror. Characters don’t know who these Doubles are or how they function, and that mystery is scary. There’s a conspiracy surrounding their existence and, like all conspiracies, everyone can’t know the whole truth of the matter. In a genre that has murdering nightmare boogeymen, voodoo charmed children toys and invading leprechauns looking for their gold, I think we can excuse Us and not demand answers for every specific part. Embrace the odd Twilight Zone mystery of it and enjoy.
Peele’s directing style ticks every box for horror, which only goes to prove his adoration for the genre. Us has long, drawn-out shots emulating the type of dread The Shining fans would adore; subtle movements just out of the main shot’s focus to initiate a sort of pareidolia fear; and of course, violent scenes that just glorify the horror of gore and violence. This cornucopia of horror iconography is a horror fans dream and the welcomed pandering to our wants is only further met by a slew of references to pop culture and other horror classics.
Of course, the spooky atmosphere can’t all be credited to Peele and his cast. It’d be amiss to not mention the brilliant soundtrack, which unnerved audiences from the opening credits. Michael Abels – composer of Jordan Peele’s previous horror film, Get Out – marries creepy staccato strings with sudden loud outbursts, sending shivers down your spine one second and an explosion of dread deep in your stomach the next. The soundtrack really is just as marvellous as Get Out’s, with the return of an ominous gospel horror chorus chanting throughout the tense opening credits.
Us’ critique of the American Dream, class divide and examination of the evil that lies dormant in all of us is a fascinating exploration into modern society. With a film receiving this much hype, it’s imperative you witness this horrifying gem before any plot points are spoiled. However, even knowing everything that occurs, Us is worth multiple viewings to fully appreciate Peele’s storytelling mastery.