I cannot think of a film that has given me the chills quite like Jordan Peele’s Us.
Peele’s sophomore release starts off with an ominous message about unused tunnels and mines in America, set to the sound of waves crashing ashore in the backdrop. One would think, at first glance, that he or she was seeing the wrong film.
However, we finally arrive in 1986, where a young family of three is having fun on a boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Calif. We see a mom, dad, and a little girl who we come to know as Adelaide. After her dad won her a Michael Jackson “Thriller” t-shirt, the family moves on to a Whack-A-Mole game. Young Adelaide then wanders off while her parents talk, passing by a mysterious man holding up a sign with Jeremiah 11:11 on it, en route to a house of mirrors.
As expected, Adelaide walks inside and meets an exact replica or mirror image, if you will, of herself. But, as Adelaide claims, it’s not just a reflection. The event traumatizes Adelaide well into adulthood, which is where we fast forward to. Adelaide (played brilliantly by Lupita Nyong’o) is married to Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and they have two kids, Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, respectively). The Wilson’s take a vacation to, you guessed it, Santa Cruz to spend some time with friends the Tyler Family.
An unassuming Gabe convinces Adelaide to take their family to the beach to meet up with the Tyler’s. After Jason almost disappears at the beach, Adelaide becomes very protective of her family and they leave. Later that evening, a mysterious family appears in the driveway of Adelaide’s childhood home, where she and her family are staying. The creep-o family ignores Gabe’s threats and easily breaks into the house. But the Wilson’s quickly find out that this family looks and acts exactly like them. Yea, this is where it gets really weird.
The Wilson’s now know that they are in a fight for their lives, but they later discover it’s not just them. Santa Cruz – and presumably the rest of the country – are under siege by violent doppelgängers. The doppelgängers, known in the film as Tethers, have planned this uprising for years, led by Adelaide’s Tether, Red. The reason? For the risk of spoiling the film, I’ll just say see it first. Adelaide knows the only way to rid herself of this terror and save her family is to kill the demon that has haunted her all these years.
Whew! I think that’s pretty much the gist of the plot without giving too much away.
As far as my critique of Us, I’ll start off with this: Jordan Peele is an unequivocal genius. Peele knows the recipe for a perfect horror film, like your favorite meal from you grandma. Us mixes just the right amount of the cornerstones of the horror film – terror, fright, blood, and gore – with timely interjections of humor to make it watchable for those, like me, who are not hardcore horror fans.
Peele also cleverly gets into the psyche of his audience, which is the main focus of my review. He leads us on a hunt to discover just what the methods are behind his madness and keeps the viewer guessing at all times. But just when we think we have everything nailed down, Peele switches things up, oftentimes, at the last minute.
I was enthralled by the twists and turns in Us, although some were predictable. Even getting chills several times throughout. The ending was a bit hard to grasp at first but, once you get it, it will totally wreck you. I know it did me.
Genius, devilishly-clever, amazing. None of those adjectives can accurately describe the film. I’d say it’s bone-chillingly incredible. With Us, Peele has solidified himself as one of the great filmmakers of our generation. I’d recommend not only seeing it once but several times. I know I will.
My Grade: A