Jordan Peele is no longer simply a funny guy. He is now an Academy Award winner for Best Screenplay for his first film Get Out. An amazing thing considering his comedy past and the fact that Get Out is a horror film. Traditionally comedy and horror have not been very well received or respected by the Oscars. Jordan Peele changed all that with his original and successful debut film.
With all that success does come a ton of expectations. Especially when it comes to a sophomore film. It is almost like people want you to fail. Some filmmakers can be crushed under the weight of all that. Apparently not Jordan Peele. He must possess steel….well, you know the rest of that sentence.
Us followed on the heels of Get Out. Making things even trickier is the fact that Peele is back with another horror film. Could he go back to that same well and surface with another winner. The short answer is “yes”. There is more to it, however.
This is another film which nightmares are made of. What could be more frightening than going up against a family which is exactly like your own. Now, you might be saying “wait a minute, that does not sound scary at all”. But if I was to bring in the word doppleganger that would likely change your mind.
Gabe (Winston Duke – Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War) and Adeline Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave, The Jungle Book – 2016) are the parents in your perfect American family. They have two kids – teenage daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph – from television’s Hairspray Live!) and youngest son Jason (Evan Alex – appeared in episodes of Sesame Street and Kidding). Adeline is the bad cop to Gabe’s good cop. Part of the explanation for her seriousness is a past trauma which she has not exactly recovered from. When a string of odd occurences happen, Gabe dismisses them as coincidence. Adeline does not. She feels something bad is going on.
The Wilsons travel to Santa Cruz just wanting some fun and relaxation. They travel with their friends, the Tylers. To help his wife get over that trauma from her past, Gabe insists they stay at her childhood family’s home. Fun is happening until another family shows up and intrudes uninvited. Intruders who look exactly like the Wilsons. Kinda. Clad in red. As the night advances, the Wilsons begin to realize that they are in a fight for their very lives.
Similar to Get Out, this one starts off strange and slow. It takes a little under an hour for the horror stuff to start happening. But when it finally does things start occuring in the fast and furious manner. The atmosphere is a rather eerie one. You will have a hard time not jumping or flinching at points. Tension is high. Part of the reason is the slow beginning. It lulls you, draws you in and then amps things up. Totally psychological in its approach. No one since Hitchcock has managed this so well.
Everything is strange here. And by strange I mean weird. Weird is a hard thing for the masses to accept and yet Jordan Peele seems to have tapped into the formula. Big time. Things are rather unrealistic if you truly think about it. But in some ways the unbelievability makes it all the more scary.
Another thing which Peele seems to have cornered the market on is making horror films which involve personal or intimate moments at the same time it is taking on larger social issues. A highwire balancing act which he takes on with glee.
Though the entire cast, which also includes Elisabeth Moss (from television’s The Handmaid’s Tale), is good, Lupita Nyong’o is extra excellent. We have seen the frightened person turn into the hero many times in film, but she breathes a freshness into Adeline. The talented actress is able to go deep. Deep enough into her character to make what Peele is attempting work.
-The Monsters Within Us
-Tethered Together: Making Us Twice
-Redefining a Genre: Jordan Peele’s Brand of Horror
-The Duality of Us
-We’re All Dying
-As Above, So Below: Grand Pas de Deux