Dir. Jordan Peele (2019)
A family’s vacation home is invaded by their doppelgangers.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
It’s difficult to argue that there are that many horror directors still working today that are better than Jordan Peele, even when considering Us, his most controversial film to date. The first time I saw Us it blew my mind, delivering even more creep factor than I had initially expected with the terrifying trailer. It’s a divisive film, and it’s difficult to find any two reviews that feel exactly the same way about the movie. The movie does lose a bit of steam at its often-confusing conclusion, but there’s more than enough foreshadowing that it all makes a lot more sense if you’re paying attention and don’t get too bogged down with the details. Whatever one might think about the film, the home invasion sequence that kicks off the bloodshed is one of the more well-crafted scenes of terror in horror.
What I find most interesting about Us is that it’s not about race. It’s so easy to become a one-trick pony in film in general, but especially in horror. When you craft a racial horror movie as well as Peele made Get Out, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that the easiest way to proceed would be to make more of the same. However, Peele chose to make Us into a different social commentary, aiming his considerable storytelling skills at the class divide, which grows ever more apparent every year. The Tethered folks in the film are the lower class, forced to subsist on rabbits and literally nothing else to make better lives for those living on the surface. It’s a great metaphor for the world as it actually exists, where workaday people break their backs while the rich live in luxury, seemingly not understanding the terrible lives that their workers are forced to live. It’s a biting critique of the capitalist structure upon which our entire society is built, and it’s an eerily accurate depiction of the way our society actually functions.
I get the frustration with the film, though. It’s convoluted, for sure, and while there are many payoffs throughout the film, it often feels a bit pretentious. Despite seemingly every layman reviewer wanting to talk about the plot holes, there really aren’t any in the film: it seems as though the people who have a problem with the film’s “plot holes” either “didn’t get it” (which is an excuse I hate so I won’t be talking much about it) or they felt that the film wasn’t realistic, and therefore it’s a plot hole. You have to suspend your disbelief at the notion of this Tethered world below our feet, and that the rules that they must live by, which Peele adequately laid out, are the rules they must live by. It doesn’t get much deeper than that. “But they couldn’t only live on rabbits!” “Where’d they get the scissors!?” For real? It’s a movie about doppelgangers. That’s not something that exists. Vampires don’t exist either, but I don’t think that’s the reason you like to bitch about Twilight.
Either way, the film is haunting, gory, and downright scary at times, with excellent acting and some stellar scenes of violence. It is certainly not as well-made as Get Out, Peele’s vastly superior first film, but it stands on its own merits fairly well, all things considered. It’s not going to please everybody, but there’s enough to love here to make the film absolutely worth a watch. Lupita Nyong’o and Elisabeth Moss kill it in this film, especially as their creepy-as-fuck doubles. This isn’t a film that’s a hill worth dying on, but it’s definitely one that deserves multiple watches.
Who this movie is for: Modern horror fans; Social horror lovers; Doublemint twins
Bottom line: Eerie ambience and with a major creep-factor, Us is way better than most people say it is. The concept is bizarre and fascinating, and it’s excellent social commentary that would escape the abilities of most directors. Thankfully, Jordan Peele is not most directors, and with his limited filmography has shown himself to be one of the most talented directors working in horror today. While I don’t know that Us would necessarily fit into a Halloween marathon, it’s a great film besides and is definitely worth a look.