Jordan Peele takes a turn at the home invasion genre, delivering more blood, gore, and social commentary in Us, his hotly-anticipated follow-up to 2017’s Get Out.
Kicking off the 2019 edition of the SXSW Film Festival, Peele’s sophomore horror flick brought both the bloodshed and surprising humour to Austin, Texas in a film that never quite reaches the heights of Get Out.
Lupita Nyong’o is Adelaide Wilson, a loving and protective wife and mother whose buried traumatic past casts a dark shadow over what should be a carefree beach vacation with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), and kids Zora (Shahidi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex).
Their relaxing getaway takes a turn for the terrifying when a family of doppelgangers show up at their doorstep. Clad in red jumpsuits and wielding golden shears, these look-a-likes nicknamed the Tethered have a score to settle with their family of counterparts.
Naturally, what follows is a decent into some very bloody and gory levels of madness set to a fantastic score.
Not without humour – which should come as no surprise from a man who made us laugh before he revealed his true nature as a Master of Suspense – Peele’s script is filled with well-timed quips and tension-easing laughs – especially from Duke’s Gabe who delivers dad jokes with the best of them. For the SXSW audience, who are always game for a reaction, the laughs flowed freely, even when it was unclear if there was an actual joke to be acknowledged.
There’s no doubt Nyong’o shines in the dual roles as the family’s protector and shadowy Tethered counterpart, conveying a range of emotions in dark close-ups, her eyes shining bright. It’s a role that we can buy her as, even in the moments of pure, visceral horror as shocking truths come to light.
It should come as no surprise that a movie called Us suggests that, just maybe, we are the villains in our own story. Following the crowded premiere of the film at SXSW in Austin, Texas, Peele told the crowd, “Maybe the monster we need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil is us.”
Inevitably, Us will be compared to its predecessor, Get Out, which thanks to its Oscar-winning screenplay packed shocks, scares and social commentary in a neat little package. With Us, the package isn’t so neatly wrapped up, with a broader – and vaguer- story at hand. What Peele excels at in Us is the traditional home invasion set up – it’s run-for-your-lives scary. But eventually, that gives way to a less tangible, more high-concept horror film that doesn’t quite pull off what it’s trying to get across, ending on what’s supposed to be a gut-punch reveal.
Or maybe this writer just watches too many episodes of The Simpsons. Twenty-five minutes in I made a joke reference to a beloved Simpsons episode that, well, ended up being the film’s big twist.
Even if Us fails to reach the heights achieved by Get Out, Peele has cemented himself as a solid genre director whose future looks exceptionally dark and frightening – in a good way.