'Us' (2019) Movie Review
Two. That is the number of full length films that Jordan Peele has personally directed. Two horror films that he wrote, directed, and produced himself. Plus a third movie that he wrote which was entirely a comedy, Keanu. Somehow, with very little under his belt, Peele has been proclaimed as a new master of horror. I don’t know if I can go so far as to truly make that statement myself, but with his directorial debut in Get Out and now his second venture in Us, he is certainly on his way there to earning that title. I have loved both of his horror films, and for that matter his comedy as well. He has shown exceptional range behind the camera as he slightly detoured from making the audience laugh to making them shriek in terror. I find his work to be absolutely brilliant. This really is exciting to see his career unfolding the way that it is thus far. Us is clever, creepy, thought provoking, and sometimes hilarious. Peele is hellbent on captivating move-goers with unique and creative ways in scaring his audience, while also being sure to entertain them like crazy. He interjects intelligent themes and social commentary inside of a tightly written thrill ride. Us is fantastic and I truly loved every minute of it.
Normally I try to go a little more in-depth with the plot synopsis and touching on story, point by point, in order to discuss my thoughts on the matter. This time around, I apologize in advance, but I will be only discussing the bare minimum that I can about the film Us. I’m going to be tiptoeing around specifics in order to avoid any spoilers. If you’re looking for something that analyzes every detail, I can’t give you that here because I feel that would come as a disservice to the film itself as well as the potential viewers. For anyone that may have trouble following what I might end up talking about because of how vague I may become, I also am sorry for the inconvenience.
A family of four go on vacation to Santa Cruz when strange coincidences start transpiring around them, until one night their vacation home is invaded by a group of doppelgangers that look exactly like the family themselves. From there it is a night of terror as they have to fight themselves in order to stay alive.
That’s it. That is all the detail that I am going into for the movie. I’m not touching on any plot points or twists and turns or what color their car is. I’m not doing it. I’m not. That is all that you’re going to get out of me. If that premise alone doesn’t intrigue you, then don’t bother. It’s not for you. For everyone else. Go see it, it’s a lot of fun. It really is. Us really did feel, to me, like Jordan Peele’s audition to produce his upcoming reboot of The Twilight Zone and it’s great! A surreal premise, quirky yet effective scares, attention to detail with incredible foreshadowing, and underlying themes that are subtle but nail their ideas perfectly. I had a total blast with this movie.
It’s one of those rare horror films nowadays where the entertainment value mixed in with the scares supplies such an astonishing re-watchability factor. From the laughs that can be had with the humor sprinkled throughout, to the unpredictability of the story line, and even down to the smallest minute hints of what is to come. I can’t wait to go back to see this movie again to pinpoint all of the clues and cool details that the film is filled to the brim with. Never in an “in your face” method to it though, the film allows the viewer to pick up on whatever they choose to read into it. I’ll just say this, the opening shot pretty much tells the audience everything that they need to know. They may not understand how or why at the beginning, but when all is wrapped up at the end, it syncs. Piecing everything together while still leaving enough room for an open-ended conclusion was fun for me. I felt like the filmmakers trusted me enough to put together the essentials of the story’s setup while not forcing too much of an explanation down my throat, nor did they withhold too much for me not to be able to paint a clear enough picture for myself. That is a difficult balance to strike, but Peele does it very well in his writing.
The FamilyClick thumbnail to view full-size
This is definitely one of the most original home invasion films that I have ever seen, a family’s home that is being broken into by an evil version of themselves. I can’t say that I have ever seen anything remotely like that before and I dig the hell out of it. The original family, the one that’s being attacked, are all likable and charming to watch. I loved their back and forth with one another; in their awkwardness and in their chemistry, they come off as completely believable in this horrific scenario. The father may have been my personal favorite, played by Winston Duke, as I particularly saw a bit of myself in his role. I would probably be the dad that would make an ill timed joke at an uncomfortable moment and when it came down to protecting his family… yeah, I could see myself trying to act tough and doing a terrible job at it as well. Not going to lie.
However, hands down, the best performance in the film has to go directly to Lupita Nyong’o, who plays the mother of both versions and she is amazing. Her complete polar opposite dual roles are hypnotic to watch. I was entranced by her in both roles from beginning to end; I rooted for her, I was terrified by her, I sympathized with her, and I was perplexed by her when all was said and done. Nyong’o is phenomenal, she steals the show every time she is on screen. She commands the viewer’s eye towards her and she doesn’t let go. The way that the evil version of her moves and speaks is some of the greatest work that I have seen in a horror performance. Seriously, if this wasn’t a genre film, this actress would easily be nominated for an Oscar here. She is that good in both of these roles. You can tell that she put her heart and soul into both performances, probably having the time of her life. It definitely shows and I adored her.
Comedy is a difficult aspect to get right in a horror movie. Sometimes it can be interwoven flawlessly in providing a darkly humorous chuckle inside of a nerve wracking tale, or it can fall flat on its face hardcore and break the tone entirely. In my opinion, this is the former rather than the latter. When a funny moment happens, it works. It works in terms of the characters and it doesn’t ever take me out of the movie. I never feel distracted or annoyed when something somewhat funny occurred, I buy into it here and I find it believable from a character standpoint. To me, it mostly comes across as natural with what these particular set of characters would do in a situation like this. And I laughed, quite a bit. I was along for the ride as the story and characters are established as being relatively odd and quirky, so when a joke was uttered, I was still with it. At no point did I say, “No, that doesn’t fit” nor did I find the comedy to be too stupid for a scene, it fit and it was effective in supplying a good amount of comic relief in between the frights to be had.
Us, like Get Out, is an R. There is certainly blood and violence all throughout, but it is not a gore show. Don’t make that mistake going into either of these movies. When the violence and blood comes into play, it is good. Sometimes even pretty painful to watch. The film never goes overboard with it though. At no point does this turn into an ‘80s slasher akin to Friday the 13th. Even though I love slashers and Friday the 13th, that approach would not work here with the tone that is set. It would be out of place if we saw buckets upon buckets of blood and guts, we get a fair amount of blood here and that’s all we need. Any more would be too cartoonish, any less would feel too restrained. We, as the audience, are given just enough to take the violence seriously and become afraid for our leads’ lives.
The musical score is possibly my favorite horror movie score in years. I fell in love with the score the very second the quire chimed in. I can’t even describe how truly invigorating it was for me to listen to the music as the bells rang along with the ominous vocal tones, the primitive steady beat of the drum, the violins ramping up while the whole band and quire is intensifying in unison. Strange instruments are occasionally weaved into the musical narrative and it’s so creepy. In a way, the techniques used here mirrored some of what could be heard in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and John Carpenter’s The Thing. No, I don’t mean that they sound alike, not even close. I’m simply talking about the specific technique of combining harmonics with unconventional sounds that make the spine tingle is very reminiscent of those works. Seriously, I don’t do this often, or at all in terms of a new release, but I’m sharing a link down below of the musical score. Do yourself a favor and at the very least listen to the very first track. If you don’t like it, go ahead and turn it off. If you do, give the rest a shot and really enjoy the beautiful nuances that the score has to offer.
I’ve Said My Peace
I think that I have spoken enough on the film Us. It’s great. Suspenseful, fun, creepy, intriguing, and sheer entertaining all the way through. However, with both of Jordan Peele’s horror installments, I can tell that he has a very particular style that either works for someone or it doesn’t. Much like M. Night Shyamalan, someone can very easily pick out where his finger prints have been stamped upon. Same goes for Jordan Peele in that sense. He has a direction and style of writing that will make some people joyous while others might shun it. I understand both sides of the coin, I personally have enjoyed his style so far and am willing to see where he goes from here. I am beyond ecstatic to see what Peele has in store for his Candyman remake now. From what he has proven so far with his character driven nightmares, one can only assume that Peele may blossom beautifully with the very relevant social themes of Candyman.
On another note I’d like to touch on, I happened across some of the viewers that didn’t care for Us solely on the basis that they were comparing it strictly with Get Out. Don’t do that. I implore anyone who goes into Us to not compare and contrast between this and Peele’s last cinematic effort of Get Out. That’s like trying to compare Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. That would be idiotic. They are two wildly different films and to make one’s judgement completely based on that will only result in failure and discomfort. View Us entirely on its own merits and you should have a pretty decent time with it.
So I end this review by saying to any who read this, please go see Us if you haven’t already. See it twice. See it three times. I don’t care, just support this form of horror filmmaking. It’s not often that we receive such thought and effort into the crafting of a horror movie anymore. Sure we get some great ones for sure, but not many quite like this. Not this original, this clever, this fun, this exciting, this thrilling, this creative, this thought provoking, all in one sit. It hits the perfect stride between all of those tones with a magnificent energy and it’s exciting to see on the big screen. Check it out at your earliest convenience!
Peele's Double Horror
Of the two features, so far, which Jordan Peele horror film is your favorite?
That's All Folks!
Us hit it right out of the park, according to my perspective. What about your perspective? Did you like or dislike my review? Agree or disagree? Wish someone would swap my brain out with a peanut? Comment down below and let me know! Also if you so happened to have enjoyed my review, please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a ‘Twinnerific’ day! Whatever that means!
© 2019 John Plocar