By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by Universal Pictures©
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out was a phenomenal success which underlined the racial tensions facing America within modern societies. The film garnered Peele his first Academy Award and showcased his skill as a modern horror director. His follow-up, Us, cements his position as this generation’s Hitchcock.
Us follows Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband (Winston Duke) and two children as they are suddenly confronted by home invaders who look, talk and behave exactly like they do.
There are many genres Peele’s sophomore movie could fit into. With dabbles of humour mixed with suspense and horror, Us manages to tick numerous boxes to entertain. Yet at its core, horror forms the foundation of the plot. And when the scares come, they are genuine and truly frightening, especially the introduction of the ‘other’ family.
What enhances these fearful elements are the performances. Duke demonstrates that his breakout performance in Black Panther was anything but a fluke, ensuring goofy dad Gabe is hugely relatable, whilst certifying twin Abraham as brutally torturous. Shahadi Wright Joseph’s horrifying and creepy smile as daughter Zora’s evil twin is guaranteed to leave you with nightmares. But Nyong’o is the standout here. Her multi-faceted performance is a stroke of genius and, without a doubt, she carries the film seamlessly into the final act.
Similarly with Get Out, Us doesn’t hold back on the underlying narrative of the American experience. Yet the subtext never envelops the text. The underlying themes of oppression and “other-ism” are never overused and, instead, Peele decides to focus on the family dynamic of battling a threatening force.
There are numerous surprises along the way, and the final twist is truly shocking. And whilst the entire plot isn’t as well rounded as Get Out, the movie still hits in all the right places. Peele expertly builds up the tension and satisfyingly creates a payoff that will leave many happy, or perhaps terrified instead.
Towards the end, the question of where the doppelgangers come from is answered, but as the credits roll it is easy to see how Peele could carry on the narrative further. And unlike other horrors, the lasting cliff-hanger doesn’t feel cheap or meaningless. It is truly chilling and shows how dynamic of an actress Nyong’o has become.
Whilst Us isn’t as ground-breaking or influential as Get Out, it still effectively sells the idea of a modern-day horror. It still terrifies you with intellectual scares, instead of the cheap frights many horrors turn to. Underneath it all is a subtle narration of the African-American experience within modern society, and whilst it isn’t as in-you-face as Peele’s first directorial outing, it still feels effectively relevant.
Us is a phenomenal horror which proves that Peele is more than just a one-trick-pony. His expertise in suspense and intricate horror pave a path which could rival Hitchcock. With Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke hitting home-runs in their respected performances, Us fully encapsulates modern horror with a current message. And whilst it may lack the impact of Get Out, Us will be remembered as the moment Jordan Peele proved beyond doubt that he’s Hollywood’s latest horror master.