Jordan Peele has managed to become a strong voice of horror for a new generation, not only delivering chills and thrills for fans alike, but he’s also come to offer us cinema that sets itself apart from typical genre fare. After his brilliant debut “Get Out,” Peele proves he’s here to stay with “Us,” a horror film that can be described as a masterpiece. It’s a movie that’ll be discussed for decades and promises to be one of the most widely debated horror movies of the modern era. “Us” is a scathing indictment on modern society, the idea of how trauma can affect us, and how ghosts of the past can rise to the surface, no matter how hard we try to brush them under the rug.
Adelaide Wilson never quite got over the weird experience she had at a carnival as a child in 1986. Years later she’s now a grown woman married to a well meaning man named Gabe, and is the mother to two children Zora and Jason, both of whom are wildly different in personalities. Arriving at their beachfront cottage to spend the weekend together, Gabe convinces Adelaide to go to the beach she visited as a child, to unwind. Everything seems to be going well until that very night their house is invaded by a foursome of violent maniacs draped in red. Much to their horror, the foursome is exact copies of Adelaide and her family, and they’ve arrived to eliminate the Wilson family and take their place.
It’s tough to explore much about “Us” without giving a lot away, but months from now after “Us” has been watched and combed over, it’ll promise to be a horror gem that’ll be interpreted in so many angles. “Us” is a film with promise and staying power that is provocative, disturbing, and never afraid to be darkly funny. In fact, every single scene of “Us” bears some kind of relation to the overall premise of Peele’s horror film, right down to the haunting soundtrack of pop and gangster rap songs. “I Got 5 On It” from 1994 is a classic gangster rap song that is given new definition thanks to Peele’s ability to add a definition to everything that jumps in and out of his characters’ lives. Peele explores the dichotomy of the middle class minority family and paints them in fascinating strokes that prove to be very detrimental to how we end up processing the overall concept.
Peele has a great love for every character he brings to life in “Us,” but he’s also never afraid to punish them either, providing them with adversaries that can calculate their preys’ movements at every turn. Peele squeezes in nods to horror classics here and there, but it’s so subtle that it might take at least three separate viewings to absorb it all. It’s not often I go in to a horror film not knowing what to expect, but “Us” left me feeling incredibly disturbed, and often times I was worried about the foursome of protagonists enduring this out of the ordinary situation. Much like “Get Out,” the less you know about “Us,” the better, and once you go in, it pays off with a wealth of subtext, volatile overtones, and plays on racial dynamics in horror cinema. Peele even seems to launch a scathing indictment of the eighties nostalgia wave by making one of the decade’s most ludicrous publicity stunts the twisted centerpiece of the entire narrative.
Peele successfully derives incredible performances from his collective cast including Winston Duke as the family’s well meaning patriarch, along with newcomers Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex. Tim Heidecker and Elizabeth Moss also grab their own memorable supporting turns as the family’s inept wealthy friends that spend most of their time drowning in liquor. The stand out thought is Lupita Nyong’o whose duel performance is absolutely mind blowing. Ms. Nyong’o just dominates every single moment of “Us” portraying this uneasy protagonist who is thrust in to this extraordinary situation and has almost no idea how to respond with the slightest iota of reason or logic.
Especially since the very situation defies all sense of reason and logic at every turn. Nyong’o’s Adelaide will likely go down in history alongside the great horror heroines, and she’s quite the show stopper. “Us” is a film that sticks on to you long after you’ve left it, and that’s thanks to Peele’s eerie and unsettling direction and the excellent score by Michael Abels that perfectly compliments the sense of nightmarish distorted reality we’re dropped in to. Jordan Peele’s “Us” is yet another spectacular horror film that fans will be dissecting, and examining for years to come.