Who’d thought that one-half of Key & Peele would end up being a beloved director of horror and suspense? Nobody, that’s who. Two years ago, Get Out was released, written and directed by Jordan Peele and it was an overnight success, winning him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Then, he announces that he’s going to write and direct another film that’ll be just as terrifying or more, which brings us to today’s subject. This is Us.
A family of four head out to Santa Cruz for vacation when they’re suddenly confronted by doppelgängers who look just like them. Now they’re fighting for their lives against these unknown individuals who are after them. Before seeing the movie, I had no idea what it’s going to be like. What I just gave you was a vague description of what happens and what was in the trailers. Props to the marketing team for not giving away anything in the film. That’s something that a lot of studios need to take note of. Some part of me thought that Us was going to be like Get Out and while there are similarities, they’re completely different films where one was more of a psychological thriller and the other is straight-up horror.
This movie has solid performances from all the actors involved. The real MVP of the film is Lupita Nyong’o. Dude, she deserves an Oscar nomination for playing both the protagonist AND the antagonist of the story. Her character Adelaide appears to have gone through some childhood trauma that made her more reclusive, even with her own family. That’s what it seems until you get to the twist at the end of the film, which I’ll talk about later. Her husband Gabe, played by Winston Duke, is pretty much the comic relief of the film as the corniest dad in the world. They have two kids played by newcomers Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex and they were really good. The future is bright for those two. There’s also a white family who are friends of our main characters. They’re part of one of the funniest scenes in the whole movie. Let’s just say it involves a device similar to Amazon’s Alexa and N.W.A.’s Fuck Tha Police.
So much to unpack here. First off, the cinematography is great all around. Peele knows how to set an uncomfortable atmosphere. There’s a lot of shots that are up there with the horror legends. And there’s also the score, which added to the creepiness of the whole thing. It was composed by the same guy who worked on Get Out. Along with the score, there’s also more contemporary songs added to the mix like Janelle Monae’s I Like That, Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys, the aforementioned Fuck Tha Police, and of course, the song that was in the trailers, I Got 5 On It. Dude, the way they made a weed song into horror music was crazy. I am never going to listen to that song the same way again. Now to get into the nitty-gritty. Where Get Out had a more clear message that related to racial relations, Us seems purposefully vague in terms of its subtext. The duplicates, called the Tethered, were a government experiment that was abandoned for unknown reasons. So you got these duplicates walking around underground who suddenly come up to the surface and start killing people. Could this be about our worst enemies being ourselves? Is it about class warfare? Who knows? Something that comes up a lot in this film is the Bible quote Jeremiah 11:11, which states: “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.'” I’ll leave that to the theologists who knows this religious stuff more than I do. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I don’t know what. Oh, yeah. The plot twist. So at the beginning of the film, we see Lupita’s character as a young girl with her family at Santa Cruz. She gets lost and ends up at a funhouse where she meets her doppelgänger. The scene cuts after that and we’re left wondering what happened that day. Then we get to the end of the film and it’s revealed that they switched places, so the Adelaide that we’ve been following throughout was actually the Tethered version of her. When I saw that twist, I was like “WHAT?!” Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I should’ve saw it coming because there were hints leading up to it in the way Adelaide was kind of closed off and in the flashbacks where her parents mentioned that she wasn’t acting like herself. M. Night Shyamalan, eat your heart out.
I give Us an 8/10. It’s not as great as Get Out. I think that movie had a stronger script and better use of humor, but Us is pretty solid with great performances from the actors, brilliant cinematography, and a lot of suspense and thrills. It does what a good horror film does and I enjoyed what was shown. I will definitely watch this film again to look for things that I missed out on and I look forward to whatever Jordan Peele has planned next.