Imagine bumping into a twisted looking doppelganger of yourself, in the middle of the night and being frozen in fear of what to do next. That’s a horror experience that only you could bear at the utmost terror since every thought, word or move you make is your own making and potential demise.
Us brings the horror of your own reflection to the core of what makes a great thriller but has left many scratching their heads as to what the mystery behind this phenomenon could actually mean.
Us is the second feature film written, produced and directed by renown comedian Jordan Peele after his award winning success with Get Out back in 2017. His tackle on the thriller genre came as a surprise to everyone, considering his reputation and craft as a sketch comedian (Key & Peele Show) but executing a psychological thriller that touched Afro-American history and social issues has cemented his place as one of the top directors in Hollywood today.
The movie presents a simple premise of a modern black family who are threatened by what seems to be their doppelgangers during a summer get away. We are made to believe that their lives are at stake and the balance of their survival will be the drive of the film but that expectation soon unravels a much more complex plot within Peele’s spiraling rabbit hole.
POTENTIAL SPOILERS from here on so proceed with caution!
In the beginning of the film, we are introduced to a headline that tells us that there are thousands of miles of tunnels underneath the United States of America which serve no purpose. It seems meaningless at that point but later reveals to play a role in the events to come.
Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is the main protagonist as we get a glimpse of her traumatic childhood in Santa Cruz which carries through to the current events with her family of four. They revisit Santa Cruz during Summer Break and that’s why strange events start occurring, from chilling omens to bloody deaths.
The terror begins the coming night as they are finally confronted by their doppelgangers, dressed in red jumpsuits with fingerless gloves on their right hand, breaking into their home and forced to sit for a “family meeting”.
The doppelgangers refer to themselves as shadows who are tethered to the family and every moment they experience in the real world, the shadow does as well in its own twisted way.
SPOILERS END HERE (maybe)
The movie covers a lot of ground in highlighting themes and issues that tie to American history and social relevance. The obvious theme is duality, where Peele demonstrates the fear of how you are your worst enemy and how this darkside could potential consume your existence.
There are a lot of ways to perceive this but the symbolism to his approach in this film is incredible once you realise the link between the costumes of the doppelgangers with Michael Jackson’s attire during the Thriller era – a popular figure who has exemplified duality throughout his career as a pop singer.
The home invasion came to me as a classic horror trope where much of the 80’s movies would use that fear of a looming threat just break into your safe zone and you wouldn’t know what to do. Though this may be in reference to an American issue for some of the Afro community, it could also just be something easy for Peele to tackle the bigger picture with something more familiar to start with.
Much of this film captures the best qualities of a thriller without having to resort to jump scares. It’s always easy to get your audiences’ adrenaline going with one but that moment of suspense and tension is what really haunts their thoughts in the long run. I found the smiles and eery facial expressions of the doppelgangers to be more terrifying than their actual actions to the point where I can’t look at Nyong’o’s eyes without being creeped out.
The entire cast does an amazing job at performing two contrasting versions of themselves between scenes and I can only imagine how daunting it must’ve been to switch between the two in attempting multiple takes – even with body doubles. Kudos to them for being so talented and committed!
As complex as the story unfolds itself to be, there is a glaring issue that most people I’ve talked to about the movie have shared and that’s the actual reveal of the plot and the twist that follows with it.
It’s hard to discuss this without spoilers so the safest way for me to get around this is by letting you know this – keep a lookout for Adelaide and her pivotal scenes in the movie. She is the central character but as events unfold, her character and actions start defining her role later in the story which makes more sense if you noticed the clues. Cryptic, I know but you have Peele to thank for having us work for our food.
Us can be a polarising movie for many viewers but to me, it truly is an original thriller that had me guessing from scene to scene and proving me wrong every time. It had me at the end of my seat but not knowing what was coming next really had me invested for the mystery that was to be the satisfaction of my worrying troubles.
I can’t help but give high praise to Peele, as a director and writer, for sharing his vision in a very cinematically stylised, cultured and well told manner. It is his level of creativity that cinema needs more of these days and with all these franchises and generic flicks we get, another Get Out or Us is always welcomed!
I personally can’t wait to see how he does for the reintroduction of the Twilight Zone and what he has in store next in this genre which he can now call his own.
Us – 9/10