After his oscar-winning directorial debut Get Out, Jordan Peele’s next project was always going to be one that we all followed intently. Peele is fast becoming an excitingly fresh voice in horror and his new film Us is further confirmation of his love of the genre.
Inspired somewhat by The Twilight Zone’s “Mirror image” (S1, Ep. 21), Us sees young woman Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) haunted by a distressing incident from her past. Decades on she confronts these feelings, by returning to her parent’s Santa Cruz beach house for a holiday with her husband Gabriel (Winston Duke) and her kids Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). However, deja vu soon builds to terror, as four strangers turn up on the drive way, with an uncanny resemblance to Adelaide and her family.
Us is intelligently ambitious, as Peele takes the more unusual elements of Get Out and runs with it, embracing the oddness wholesale to create a story that is like Stephen King married with Romero's Dawn of the Dead by way of Guillermo del Toro's Mimic. This film well and truly sees Peele expand his reach in terms of ideas, scale and bizarreness and even if some aspects don’t quite click, far more works than doesn’t and the aspirations are nobly built on subtle detail and themes. Us is boldly ready to be divisive and distinctive and will likely reward revisitation...we'd certainly you keep away from spoilers.
Michael Abels’ score is like a character itself and the soundtrack all round for this film is superb, providing a diverse accompaniment to the story. The script and narrative are smart and creepy if not quite as lingeringly dread-filled as the likes of Hereditary. Off the back of people continually dismissing Get Out as being something other than a horror film (it is horror from this writer’s eyes), Us was promoted as being an unadulterated frightener but it must be said the tonal shifts do occasionally jar, as the film moves from pure horror to some unusually placed moments of comedy and the tonal balance is less tight than it was with Get Out. While some things do not quite come off coherently in a very full third act that revels in the warped qualities of the concept, you are still compelled throughout.
Us is quite easily a film you could watch and hate, then revisit down the line and love, or vice versa. This is a movie unafraid to show conviction to its ideas (no matter how polarising or out there they may be) and Peele is clearly an expert horror craftsman as he draws on an array of pictures as diverse as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Funny Games, Jaws and The Shining to create a twisty, unusual and amazingly shot tale of twisted dualism, worship, ideology and paranoia. The first sequence in particular is a sublimely constructed piece of horror cinema, recalling the likes of It Follows, in how it builds tension and inevitability.
Lupita Nyong’o is exceptional, as she plays Adelaide and her mysterious doppelgänger, nailing both the troubled wife/mother finding her strength in the face of brutality and confusion and the deranged individual driven by her own ambiguous mission. The entire cast do a great job in many dualistic roles, with young Evan Alex being a particularly impressive standout.
Opinions on Us will be strong, from bafflement to film of the year and we doubt Peele would have it any other way. Off the basis of his brilliant director filmography so far, Peele will fit into his producer/host role in the upcoming Twilight Zone revival ridiculously well.
US / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JORDAN PEELE / SCREENPLAY: JORDAN PEELE / STARRING: LUPITA NYONG’O, WINSTON DUKE, SHAHADI WRIGHT JOSEPH, EVAN ALEX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW