“And to think, if it weren’t for you… I never would’ve danced at all.”
There are truly only a few people working in the film industry today who are able to reliably accomplish terrifying wonders for the horror genre. One of those people being comedy star Jordan Peele, which no one could have expected to write and direct such captivating and painfully relevant stories. After his breakout, Academy Award-winning success of 2017’s Get Out, Peele returned to deliver his intensely stylish and intriguing new horror film Us. Rife with astounding performances and plenty of social commentary, this film is exactly the kind of self-reflective horror that audiences need.
Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), and their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) are traveling to the beach for their annual family vacation. After experiencing a traumatic event that flipped her life around as a child, Adelaide is reluctant to go back. Her fears are solidified, unfortunately, when doppelgängers of her entire family appear one night to terrorize them with motives unknown.
The most prevalent theme throughout Us that Peele makes sure the audience knows is that there is no greater evil than the one that resides within ourselves. With the use of this family’s doppelgängers, this story really displays how dangerous one would be if their dark side was fully embodied. People often hate to think what they would be like if they let their darkest and scariest impulses take control, but in Peele’s world in which every person has a sinister, tethered version of themself, they must quite literally face it. Coming from a comedy background, Peele blends so much humor in this story that definitely helps the narrative move along. Comedy often finds its best footing in the genre of horror and this is especially true in Us. While most of the jokes are minor quips or full-circle gags, they work together with the terrifying side of this story to bring authenticity to this family in the midst of the tethered uprising. Casting Tim Heidecker as the snobby family friend was also one of this film’s strongest choices, as his physically humorous persona translates into such an eerie character.
Us would not have been nearly as engrossing, however, if it were not for the dedicated and passionate performances from its entire cast, particularly Nyong’o. Her portrayal of both Adelaide and her sinister version Red are some of the most haunting roles in a horror film ever seen. In simple things like Red’s guttural voice and her staccato, choreographed movements, the performance from Nyong’o almost seems like a completely different person. In the final fight scene between the two, the way that Nyong’o was able to express the contrast between their different lives in only some ballet moves and swings of a crowbar is utterly entrancing. This goes for the entire cast as well, as they had to practically pull double duty on their roles. To be able to play such varied versions of the same person is sheer talent and heightens the impact of this story immensely. Jordan Peele has proven himself a master of squeezing pure, psychological horror from his cast and his writing and direction only adds to that. Us demands multiple watches to really secure what an audience member believes to be true and Peele sprinkles in details here and there to make this film an incredibly layered experience. Despite a bit of a predictable plot twist, his detail-oriented storytelling ability is unmatched, as he gradually builds this small-scale story to its sweeping conclusion in the most effectively tense way possible.
We as Americans should never forget where we came from or the roots that got us to where we are today. Jordan Peele makes this abundantly clear throughout Us as he brilliantly tells his audience just how dangerous it is to forget our own histories, or else our malicious ‘twins’ will plan their entire lives hunting us down to get their revenge. However more mainstream this film might have been compared to his previous outing, Peele has undoubtedly helped to make the horror genre fresh once more.