Winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay set the bar pretty damn high for Jordan Peele. First movie out the gate and bam, you’re in the upper echelons of Hollywood stardom. So hey, when you’re putting together your next writing, producing & directing gig… better not blow it, huh?
Expectations have been stupidly high for the successor to Get Out, and this writer doesn’t want to necessarily feed more fuel to that fire. But it’s safe to say that with his new nightmare, Us, Peele has shown he has so much more to offer as the horror genre’s new kid on the block.
A Sun-Drenched Shocker
Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family of four are in need of a break and head out to their beach house in Santa Cruz to chill. Adelaide’s nervous about heading to the beach — the site of a frightening childhood experience — but is eventually convinced to go along. It’s a typical middle-class American family vacation… right up until a family that looks exactly like the Wilsons breaks into their home, dressed in red jumpsuits, armed with scissors and seething with murderous intent.
Peele himself set the tone for how audiences should approach the movie, taking to Twitter much as he had when his first film raised genre questions:
No shit, my dude. This is Horror as the good lord intended it — shocking, original and nailbitingly tense. Where Get Out pushed a vital message with a few significant jump scares, Us is pants-destroying from beginning to end. More importantly, it’s almost nothing like the last film. It retains the sense of humour we know and love from Peele (there are some legit hilarious lines), but ups the ante significantly with its gruesome aesthetic and the delicious sense of dread that seeps through the film.
Peele’s also done an incredible job of casting and guiding his actors, and none more so than the towering Lupita Nyong’o. As the mum keeping her family together and the vicious doppelgänger that seemingly leads the hunt against them, Nyong’o is alternately relatable and utterly terrifying.
The latter character, “Red” (the doppelganger), requires Nyong’o to shift her voice into a gasping stutter that is guaranteed to set your teeth grinding. Nouveaux riche couple Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker are a delightfully repugnant addition, with Heidecker especially prompting deeply uncomfortable chuckles.
But Who Am Us?
I’m not going to dive into spoiler territory, but I will say that the story is less clear-cut than Get Out, which was as subtle in its intentions as a sledgehammer. Us still has that sense of underlying satire, but it’s a movie that asks something of you as an audience; to take that extra step and piece together the fragments of meaning for yourself as the credits roll. It speaks more to an American audience than to Aussies, certainly. But regardless of where you’re from, there’s plenty for you to chew on.
As a horror fan, you owe it to yourself to see it at the cinema; to join in the nervous giggling and scream in unison with a hundred other hapless victims. This is a rollercoaster ride of a film with an ending you’ll be talking about for days. And if your friends are too chicken to join you… why not take yourself?
Us is out in cinemas across Australia now.
Image: Monkeypaw Productions