Returning to cinema screens after the success of his Oscar winning horror ‘Get Out’ director Jordan Peele is back with a new nightmare entitled ‘Us’. The film follows a family of four who take a vacation to their beach house but it quickly becomes the holiday from hell. Confronted by a family of violent strangers who look exactly like them they must fight for survival against these terrifying doppelgängers.
Jordan Peele knows how to write a good horror film, he’s got an Academy Award to prove it. It’s no surprise then that his sophomore horror screenplay delivers a captivating and chilling cinematic experience for all who dare to buy a ticket. The film has an immediate eerie air to it, making settings usually associated with fun and laughter feel uncomfortable and sinister. Michael Abels, who composes the score for ‘Us’ deserves a lot of credit for this. His compositions combined with the skillful use of the soundtrack exacerbates the unfolding terror expertly and creates an unmistakable sound that will forever be associated with the film. Once the doppelgängers become established within the story the film isn’t just as scary but it instead features several sequences of suspense dripping in tension and complimented by plenty of slasher action. In addition to this, Peele also manages to seamlessly inject humour into his screenplay, never feeling jarring or distracting from the main storyline, a skill not to be taken for granted.
In a similar vein to ‘Get Out’ this horror film can be viewed and enjoyed at a surface level, simply to be taken as it’s found. Alternatively for those looking for a deeper meaning to everything there’s definite social commentary and messages present to dissect and understand that Peele has carefully constructed throughout. Some more explanation wouldn’t go a miss and would certainly appease viewers more in need of exposition to enjoy the experience. However there is enough to work with here for audiences to buy into the narrative and make the film successful.
Whether or not the story and the way it’s told is for viewers or not, one aspect of the film which should effortlessly impress audiences are the phenomenal performances of the cast. Winston Duke, of ‘Black Panther’ fame and his young co-stars are excellent, all delivering two performances for the price of one. The amazing contrast that this cast conjure up through their work here is masterful, as despite being played by the same performer you always see two completely different characters simultaneously sharing the screen. No one does this better than lead actress Lupita Nyong’o who delivers her career best work here and easily joins the ranks of the greatest horror performances of all time.
With ‘Us’ Peele has proved that ‘Get Out’ was no fluke. He has delivered another top tier horror classic to be which will be watched, discussed and celebrated for years to come. The score, writing and performances ensure this film’s longevity and its well paced, energetic and chaotic thrills and spills will keep more casual cinema goers happy in the moment. Peele has cemented himself as one of the most capable and exciting names working in horror today. As a result all eyes (through fingers) will firmly be on him for whatever hellish creation he brings to the screen next! Also one more time, Lupito Nyong’o, exceptional.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 9/10
‘Us’ has been highly anticipated from director Jordan Peele, especially after the incredible success of ‘Get Out’, that proved horror films, when well made can go toe to toe with all the bigger films at awards ceremonies. I was a big fan of ‘Get Out’, although I felt it had its flaws, but it was original and scary enough to appeal to my love of the horror genre. So paradoxically, I have mixed feelings about ‘Us’, and though I can appreciate the technical brilliance of the film, there is a lot in there that left me disappointed.
Perhaps it’s my own lack of observation on a first viewing, but as the film progresses I became slightly less scared, and more perplexed by the bigger reach of the story. The first reel is fantastic though. There are plenty of nice set ups, in fact there are moments of foreshadowing that are so obvious you find yourself anticipating the reveal, and after an initial opening scene set in 1986, we find ourselves in the present day, and meeting the cast, who are by the way, all incredible.
As the slow burn begins, we finally get to the moment where our protagonists are confronted by their own evil doppelgängers. If you have watched the trailer, then you will know that the basic premise looks like a home invasion story, but instead of masked random strangers, these particular invaders are malignant mirror images that seem ready to dispatch their real life counterparts with sets of vicious looking scissors. The scene is set for what looks to be a tense, unsettling battle for survival in a claustrophobic setting. And it is. For a bit.
Where things started to fall apart for me, is when Peele takes us out of the initial setting, and drops us into a bigger, more expansive scene that moves the plot into totally different territory. The shift in scale and scope is jarring, and the film seems to jump a groove. Without offering spoilers, it’s hard to explain the shift, but suddenly I felt we were out of the initial horror premise, in an almost M. Night Shyamalan set up. Although this was unexpected and interesting, the marriage of the two ideas felt forced. Now perhaps I am missing some of the finer points of the story. Perhaps I have misunderstood some of the symbolism and layered story telling that is obviously at work here. But ‘Us’ looks every bit like a horror movie in a particular vein, and by the final act there are so many questions and plot holes, that I almost forgot the first act was part of the movie.
I also hate to be this person, but fifteen minutes in, I leaned over to Mrs. Reviewer and quietly revealed what I though would be one of the films big twists. To be fair, I felt it had been telegraphed to the audience quite clearly, but with a more subtle approach, this could have been avoided, instead of the Shyamalan moment that we finally get. So, this film is a tough one for me. I was expecting one thing, I got another, and although clever and probably working on several different levels, it left me slightly underwhelmed.
Written by Louie Fecou
Rating – 7/10
Question: What is your favourite sophomore film from a horror director?
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