Us (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray/DVD (Distributor: Universal Pictures) Running Time: 116 mins approx
It is interesting how we all like to think of ourselves as individuals, yet we are told we all have our own doppelganger somewhere in the world – which I presume means twins, triplets, quads, etc. would result in an army of lookalikes. But just because we may look the same, doesn’t mean we have the same personalities.
On a family holiday to Santa Cruz in 1986, young Adelaide Thomas (Madison Curry) is traumatised after wandering off from her parents and finding her exact double in hall of mirrors, shocking her into silence. Now a grown woman with her own family, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) arrives at the holiday home with husband Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and son Jason (Evan Alex).
The Wilson family join friends Kitty (Elizabeth Moss) and Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker) and their twin daughters (Cali and Noelle Sheldon) at the beach of Santa Cruz, the site of her earlier trauma. That night, back at the holiday home, a family of four people in red jumpsuits are seen standing in the driveway. When Gabe asks them to move on, they attack the house, revealing themselves to be the exact doubles of the Wilson family.
Jordan Peele turned many heads and opened many eyes with his debut Get Out, and not just because of the predominant black cast but because of his unique twist on the issue of racism via he horror film medium. Whilst this message stood out loud and proud throughout Get Out, many people found the horror aspect underwhelming, so Peele respond to those critics by ramping it up for Us.
Because it is a horror film, the doppelgangers – known as Tethered – are sinister for a reason which, upon first inspection, is a case of people having a light and dark side, or the evil twin/good twin, but Peele’s script is too smart to leave it such a reductive level. But he isn’t going to give us the truth so easily either, so we are left to witness the creepy, relentless, methodical harassment of the Wilson family.
However, the psychological horror takes a step back to allow the blood soaked violence to begin at the Tyler household where their Tethered show up and slaughter them. Unlike the stoic Wilson clones (save for Zora’s), the Tyler Tethered have unnerving grins on their faces but still cannot speak – only Red, Adelaide’s copy, is able to speak, though her voice is broken, strained and erratic in cadence and timbre.
For the most part, Adelaide is the centrifugal force of the entire story and the script only teases the true reason why this is by having her step up to reverse the usual role of the man being the hero of the hour. That Red is the sole spokesperson for the Tethered can also be seen as pushing strong women into the spotlight but that feeling there is more to this never leaves us, and it is right to.
Throughout the film, there are visual clues and hints as to what might be the truth behind all of this, from religious scriptures featured in the background to the symbolism of rabbits that doesn’t really tell us that much, but somehow Peele knows what he is doing with all of this. Even if you don’t get it yourself, it has no significant bearing on the outcome when it is finally revealed.
Peele is happy to play with major horror conventions like jump scares, gore, frantic last second escapes, misdirection, etc, making it feel more mainstream than Get Out but it is a means to an end. By doing this, Peele holds his audience captive by the action but without a valid explanation why it is happening, they are duty bound to stay with it and find out the reason, a simple but effective tactic.
Whilst this is a film with a message, Peele is not averse to throwing some dark humour into the mix, to wit – the now obligatory ironic musical accompaniment. In this instance, it is the Tylers being hacked up to the strains of the Beach Boys classic Good Vibrations, though the use of a profane anti-police track from rappers NWA will have a different meaning for others, I’m sure.
Having covered racism in Get Out, Us sees Peele commenting on the disparity of wealth distribution and how for every life of privilege, there is someone equally as poor, and one day they will want their share too and will take it. It’s a unique way to get this point across, and the way the Tethered are portrayed is quite ingenious, giving them their own sparse underground world where people literally move as parallel shadows to their doubles aboveground.
Just like with Get Out, the cast is mostly black with a few white characters but this isn’t relevant to the plot or to its central message, though some might want to view it this way. For the main cast, it meant doing double duty in playing their normal characters and their evil twins, demanding two different performances from them, both physically and in their personalities.
Each one immerses themselves into this dark duality with stunning results, but it is hard to argue against this being a triumph for Lupita Nyong’o delivering what is nothing short of an incredible performance in both roles. Staying in the character of Red during the shooting of those scenes, Nyong’o’s chillingly committed essaying of this terrifying being should solidify her place as one of the most talented and exciting actresses today.
Naturally, the big question is whether Us is as good or better than Get Out. I can’t answer that as they are both different despite some shared DNA. Peele is proving to be a unique new voice in horror cinema at the moment and this only reaffirms that fact. If you like your horror intelligent and edgy, or just plain creepy and violent, Us delivers on both counts.
English Language 5.1
English DVS, French, Italian, Spanish Language
English, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese, Arabic, Egyptian, Icelandic Subtitles
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
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black