Here’s our review of Jordan Peele’s new horror film ‘Us’ that opens in theaters nationwide on March 22…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When Jordan Peele debuted his first written and directed film, there weren’t that many expectations.
Previously best known as one half of a sketch comedy duo, Peele was quietly a horror movie fanatic, who was just biding his time until he found the perfect opportunity to unleash his full, unbridled vision into a film.
The result was ‘Get Out’ — a movie that didn’t exactly kill at the box office on opening weekend but through a viral, word of mouth campaign, ended up as one of the most talked about films of 2017. Critics and audiences alike swooned over Peele’s creepy, terror filled movie that also smacked everybody in the face with a real dose of racism in America that was dressed up in a horror film.
Once everybody realized the true impact of ‘Get Out’, Peele was praised universally and ended up taking home an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
As Peele then began working on his follow up movie, expectations were exceedingly high. That new film titled ‘Us’ will be delivered on Friday in theaters nationwide.
Peele has described this movie as more of a straight up take on horror but make no mistake there is still plenty of underlying social commentary happening in this film. The first trailers were met with more than a few thrills and chills as the stage was set for Peele to unleash another horror classic.
Sadly, ‘Us’ fails to live up to its predecessor but those are nearly impossible standards.
A fairer representation of ‘Us’ would be to say that the movie pays off in a lot of ways — especially in the first 45 minutes and then a succinct twist ending that ties everything back together again but there’s a lot in the middle that feels bloated and hit or miss when it comes to the actual horror part of the movie.
Peele might be the best filmmaker alive right now who knows how to create foreboding doom — and there’s plenty of that over two hours — but there are other parts that felt somewhat messy and almost unnecessary once all the pieces of the puzzle come together at the end.
With that said, let’s get to our full review of ‘Us’ in theaters on Friday…
‘Us’ opens in 1986 as a little girl named Adelaide is out celebrating her birthday with her mother and inebriated father. After getting a Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ t-shirt as a prize, Adelaide’s dad is left to watch her alone and it doesn’t take long for the little girl to get bored waiting on her father playing games so she decides to do a little exploring around the boardwalk. She eventually ends up in a hall of mirrors during a rain storm where Adelaide comes face to face with something truly frightening — an identical twin staring right back at her except this is no mirror image.
Fast forward to modern day and Adelaide is now married with two kids and she’s returning to the family’s summer home near that same beach where she once wandered off and had the most traumatizing experience of her entire life. Just being back in the same area brings back bad memories for Adelaide but she does her best to mask that uneasiness as her husband and children get ready for a fun, family day at the beach.
Later that night — and this is no spoiler because it’s been in all the trailers — Adelaide’s family is about to go to bed when they spot four people, hands held together, standing in the shadows at the end of their driveway. When these mysterious strangers all clad in orange jumpsuits and brandishing gold scissors force their way into the house, Adelaide and her family are confronted by a group of doppelgangers who strike true terror into their hearts when they finally walk into the light.
If you’re searching for an award to hand out to ‘Us’ right now, just go ahead and start polishing up a trophy for Lupita Nyong’o, who pulls double duty as Adelaide Wilson and her creepy doppelganger called ‘Red’.
Nyong’o does a ton of heavy lifting in this movie while playing the protective mother, still tormented by her past, yet doing everything possible to protect her children. Simultaneously, she’s portraying her evil twin with a throat-slashed voice that will stick with you long after this movie ends. The wild-eyed way that Nyong’o plays her doppelganger will almost make you forget that she’s an exact replica of the suburban mom who first gets introduced in this movie.
The rest of the Wilson family — Winston Duke as the husband, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex as the kids — do an admirable job of backing her up in supporting roles.
Perhaps the other performance worth noting is Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss, who plays a family friend of the Wilson’s named Kitty Tyler. Kitty, her husband and their freakishly athletic twin daughters have just a little bit more than the Wilson’s and that always seems to bug Adelaide’s husband Gabe.
The real twist comes when Moss also portrays a doppelganger and she has one particular scene in this movie without saying a single word that will send chills down your spine.
DIRECTING AND WRITING
Peele may not hit a homerun with this movie when it comes to the script but he still manages to deliver a very memorable thriller.
The story is simple enough to follow but at the same time, the deeper plot is too complicated for its own good, especially when you get to the last 30 minutes of this movie. Obviously as soon as the first trailer debuted, anybody with interest in seeing this film was going to ask about those creepy doppelgangers and where they came from.
Peele doesn’t necessarily leave the audience hanging on that question but it almost felt like he had a great ending in mind but almost forgot how to get there.
As far as direction goes, Peele is a student of the horror film genre and he proves it yet again with ‘Us’. From the haunting soundtrack to the blood curdling screams to the way he plays with shadows and light, Peele knew the look he wanted for this film and he didn’t miss a beat.
He even manages to pull off the rare daylight scares, which are somewhat unseen in many major horror films these days.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
‘Us’ might be the perfect horror film through the first 45 minutes — it’s filled with dread, suspense and more than a few moments that will make you jump in your seat. Unfortunately, it’s when you get to the latter half of the movie that things start to feel a little cluttered and it seems almost like Peele is trying too hard to offer answers to his story without actually revealing everything.
Perhaps some of that is purposeful so it leaves the audience to decide what they believe happened but still it’s just a somewhat unsatisfying bit of storytelling.
Us’ is a well-made thriller that will definitely force you to turn on the lights at the end of your driveway going forward — but still feels a little hit and miss over the course of two hours.
‘Us’ gets 3 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale