Released: 28th March
Seen: 28th March
In 2017 the film Get Out was released in cinemas and it was nothing short of a phenomenon. No one expected it, Jordan Peele was a comic mostly known for his work with Key and Peele or MADtv and now he was going to direct a horror movie? His first time directing was going to be a horror film? It was a weird thought at the time and when Get Out finally hit screens, it was like an atom bomb went off. No one saw that coming, people started tearing it apart looking for all the subtle little tricks he hid in it. People literally had debates on if a shot of a woman eating fruit loops was a visual metaphor for segregation, that’s how nuts the reaction to that film got. I personally named it the best film of 2017, which is only slightly less prestigious than the Oscar that it won. It made one hell of an impact, followed right away by the burning question “So, how will Jordan Peele follow this?” which was answered this year… and it’s such a good answer.
Us is about the Wilson family and their attempt to enjoy a holiday in a nice little beach house. The mother, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) has a serious case of PTSD brought on by a visit to the same beach when she was a child. The father, Gabe (Winston Duke) is your typical dorky dad just trying to give his family a good time on their vacation, even if his attempts end up humiliating them. The daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) is a track runner who is more into her phone than into running track. Finally, the brother, Jason (Evan Alex) is constantly latching onto his mother and walks around with a Chewbacca mask on all the time. One night on their holiday, they spot a family standing in the driveway and upon confronting them, realise that the family in the driveway is made up of their doppelgangers who want to get in and cause problems.
This film is insanely hard to talk about after a single viewing because there’s an obscene amount going on that would require serious study. I won’t be shocked to find out that someone is already working on a thesis paper trying to dissect every single element of the film because it’s littered with references and allusions to… well, everything. From nods to other horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street and C.H.U.D., to allusions to world events like 9/11 and Hands Across America, this film is just full to the brim with stuff. You could spend hours dissecting every choice, which is very intentional because one thing we have learned about Jordan Peele as a director is that he will make goddamn sure that his film says something, even if you’re not going to catch everything he’s saying. When I tell you that 50 people will get 50 different things out of this movie, that’s not even close to an exaggeration. You might catch every single idea thrown out, you might not catch any of them and just be terrified by what’s on the surface, but it’s fascinating seeing someone make a film that’s so dense with content that it almost demands multiple viewings just to catch everything.
The big motif of the film is the duality of man, as stated by Peele in interviews, and that motif really works here because of the fantastic performances by the cast. Everyone gets to not only create the regular characters we’re going to be following throughout the movie but their dark counterpart as well. So this is where I join the throng of voices saying “Lupita Nyong’o deserves an Oscar nomination for this role” because she absolutely does, playing both the matriarch of the Wilson family and the dark leader of the doppelgangers, she sets a terrifying tone that everyone is rushing to keep up with. It still blows my mind that this is her 9th film and she’s pulling off one of the most amazing horror film performances in recent years. Everyone else clearly is having fun too, watching Winston Duke go from dorky dad to a terrifying beast is one of the most awesome things. Even the kids have some incredible work to show off here, and everyone involved is just having the most fun being pure evil.
Where this film falters, in a way that Get Out didn’t (and I know that might not feel like a fair comparison, but it’s the same writer/director and the same genre so the comparison is unavoidable) is that the story is a lot more stretched out. This is simply because Peele loaded up every single second of the film with so much information that some ideas feel like they weren’t explored enough, including a pretty big one about how the relationship between the people and their doppelgangers can be used as some kind of a weapon. There are so many fascinating elements to this film and I’ll cop to possibly just not being smart enough to catch everything thrown out by the film, but it still does feel like there are so many big ideas that aren’t well explained by the film itself… or maybe it is well explained and I’ll understand it on the 14th viewing that I’m clearly going to need.
Even with the issue of some parts being hard to follow, it’s impossible to deny that this film is the confirmation that Jordan Peele is a master of horror. It’s creepy and original, a film that is engaging from top to bottom with performances that will send tingles through your spine. If I have to be honest, I prefer Get Out more, but this is a close second and still one of the most enjoyable experiences that I’ve had this year. It was worth the long wait to get to see this movie, now I wait patiently to see what Peele does next year when that Candyman remake comes out.