By ETHAN BLOUCH
The movie “Us” is the second feature length film from Jordan Peele, who previously wrote and directed “Get Out” in addition to his collaborations with Michael Keegan on the Comedy Central television show Key and Peele. Viewing the film entirely on its own terms, the film is smart without being pretentious, makes you care about the main family’s survival, and even manages to effectively use jump scares.
The main tension in the film is between a seemingly normal family and a frightening, twisted version of them that comes to visit them at their beach house. Both the normal characters and their doppelgangers are portrayed by the same actors, but the stark contrast between the way the actors differentiate their portrayal of the characters manages to convince you that they are entirely different people.
In particular, Lupita Nyong’o steals the show as both the troubled protagonist Adelaide and her doppelganger Red, who is by far one of the most disturbing and frightening characters in a horror movie. Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex also give great double performances as relatable family figures and otherworldly psychopaths.
The film does have some things to say about social and racial privilege, and the film is best appreciated as a visceral experience first and foremost. It’s an incredibly well-paced horror film.
This film also manages to tell its story using captivating cinematography- the first 10 minutes or so effortlessly switch between first person and third person perspective to help the viewer identify with and feel concern for a young child. The soundtrack feels like a future classic horror score, and Michael Abels, like Bernard Hermann before him, manages to turn the violin into the ultimate instrument for creating suspense. The acting and choreography are all excellent- one of the final encounters between Adelaide and Red in a hallway, which cuts between flashbacks of Adelaide dancing as a young girl, is particularly effective.
The actual explanation of what the doppelgangers are and where they come from is the weakest part of the movie, but thankfully Peele seems to recognize this as such and brushes over it very quickly. Upon re-watching the film, you’ll no doubt recognize various lines that end up having deeper meanings, or see meanings in the film’s various recurring symbols that you didn’t see before. You’d be hard pressed to be disappointed by “Us”, a genuinely good horror film.