By Ceara Kelly, Staff Writer
[Monkeypaw Productions; 2019]
Jordan Peele continues his transition from comedy king to horror god with this year’s release of Us. The unsettling film leaves even the most mundane things threatening. The genre has experienced a resurgence in the past few years, and this wonderfully unique nightmare is another film proving horror isn’t quite dead yet.
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During the Wilson family vacation, more and more coincidences begin to happen, eventually culminating in the arrival of creatures wearing their own faces. Based on Peele’s mythology, they are the shadows of the normal world, and now they must fight for their own identity. This is what makes Us so terrifying. While the Wilson’s are fighting for their lives, you can’t help but sympathize with the pain these doppelgangers go through, never seeing the light of day or experiencing a life or emotion of their own.
Without constantly beating the audience over the head with a philosophical lesson, Peele discusses a complex question: why do we deserve to rule the world over any other species? You’re left considering both the film and the world long after watching it. The fact that it’s downright terrifying is an added bonus.
Like Peele’s last film, Get Out, Us does not depend on jump scares and cheap tactics. The drawn-out stress and genuine sense of unease make otherwise inconsequential happenings, such as a frisbee landing a little too perfectly, sudden threats. Despite gore being used in this movie, it’s not meant to be what scares you. Us is a flexible film. Depending on how you look at it, it can be a monster movie or a psychological thriller. Fans of horror can get that adrenaline rush they crave, while those who usually avoid it can enjoy a genuinely entertaining and unique movie.
Peele’s attempt to normalize having black leads, showing that they can be successful without having an underlying race allegory, works wonderfully. Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) is just as much a cheesy, embarrassing dad like any other. There is no doubt that he is a Dad™. Adelaide (Lupita Nyongo) is strong, confident and capable without depending on the stereotypes so often associated with strong black women. It is refreshing to see a truly kind and loving family, and seeing a black family in an already rare dynamic made even better.
There is a downfall, however. While the majority of the movie makes sense and handles the incredibly ambitious world Peele created, the strings introduced in the beginning barely connect in the end. A passing reference in the start becomes a major plot device in the last ten minutes. Many hints end up falling flat, jarring the viewer completely out of the story for a moment once it’s revealed that a two-second clip is suddenly a pivotal moment. Other elements of foreshadowing found in small character ticks or costuming choices are spectacular and subtle. That’s why they work. The massive plot devices that hinge on such little screen time do nothing other than confuse the audience when they thought they understood.
In the end, Us is a fantastic horror movie. The kindness that the characters radiate keeps the movie from getting too dark, but the unique plot is convoluted at times, making it hard to be fully immersed. Though the start and end of the film leave some things left unanswered, Us is otherwise thrilling.
Watch the trailer here: