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.’ – Jeremiah 11:11
After the huge success of his debut movie Get Out, which even earned multiple Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Peele’s sophomore movie becomes the perfect follow up as he delivers the best directional, opening 1-2 combo, since Tarantino followed up Reservoir Dogs with Pulp Fiction. Jordan Peele surprised the world when he gave us Get Out, but ‘Us’ proves he has a lot more in him. Where Get Out focused on a more racially driven narrative, ‘Us’ delves more into the spiritual, again taking an inhumane fear, but presenting it in a way that feels incredibly unique and refreshing.
The movie opens in 1986, with a young girl named Adelaide (Madison Curry) and her parents taking a stroll down the Santa Cruz boardwalk late at night. With the mother’s brief disappearance, she is left under the ‘watchful eye’ of her drunken father, who choosing to be more interested in a carnival game, disobeys his wife’s simple request. Adelaide wonders off, finding a set of stairs that lead out to the main beach. With the sight of thunder illuminating the sky, Adelaide takes shelter in an abandoned hall of mirrors. Now intrigued, she wonders through its eerie halls, when all of a sudden the lights go off. In a moment of panic she heads for the nearest exit, but what she manages to find is truly frightening, her doppelgänger. Cut to the present day and an older Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), accompanied by her husband and two children (Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex), head for the same beach house we see in the movies opening scene. When the idea of going to the Santa Cruz beach comes up, Adelaide is at first hesitant to not return, but finally gives in to her family’s plea. Still shaken up after the event from her childhood, Adelaide’s fear of being back is clearly visible. After a brief scare and a bizarre amount of coincidences, they decide to head home for the rest of the evening. Just as the family are about to pack it in for the night, Jason (the son), discovers a group of people on their driveway. Adelaide, expecting to worst, grabs her two children and dials 911, even after Gabe’s (the husband) calm request to have them leave the property, they have no intention of going anywhere. Instead, they slowly approach the house, and this is when things get a little creepy…
The film is full of hidden meanings and messages and there are many different ways you can interpret them. This is what keeps it so intriguing all the way through. Its aim is to have the audience talking about it and questioning its motives long after the credits have rolled. As far as I’m concerned, it achieves that with flying colours. Racial commentary, sense of belonging, entrapment and inner evil are just a few of the theories that have been flooding the internet since the film’s release with many more bound to follow. The film is littered with strong imagery and references to other horror classics, most noticeably The Shining, in which there is an abundance of nods.
A story like this needs to be propelled by its cast, and fortunately with Lupita Nyong’o leading the charge with not one, but two potential Oscar worthy performances, we are able to both sympathise and empathise with our performers. Winston Duke plays the loveable and ruthless dad/husband, and as we can expect from a Peele movie, he loves to blend a bit of humour to his horror. That’s where Duke perfectly fits in with the dark tone of the movie, as most of the laughs come from his character. The two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) also hold out their own in what is honestly a tough performance given what they’re up against.
Peele has brought such creative splendour to the horror universe, and it is because of his ideas alone, that earns the price of admission. With two very strong movies already under his belt, both of which in twenty-years time we’ll still be considering masterpieces. Peele is coming for Hitchcock’s title as the modern-day master of suspense. ‘Us’ is powerful, thought provoking and most importantly terrifying. He doesn’t quite get ‘5 (stars) on it’, but it’s damn close. Certainly one to watch this year.