tbh i’m scared to copyedit this article…
by Christian Decker
If you were to tell me 4 years ago that Jordan Peele, co-star of a sketch comedy show, who made ridiculously funny jokes and satire, could make a truly scary movie that would completely screw with us, I would have laughed in your face. After the release of “Get Out”, I have never been so happy to be so wrong about something. Jordan Peele is a master of horror, with only two horror movies out and now the “Twilight Zone” on the way, he has already distinguished himself as a forerunner in the genre.
“Us” is a fantastic, spooky, mind-boggling film about facing our worst enemy, ourselves. In the interest of full disclosure, SPOILERS AHEAD! So, if you don’t want the movie ruined for you should stop reading now or I can’t help you.
The story takes place in Santa Cruz, California, at the vacation home of the Wilson family. Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is apprehensive because of an experience that she had when she was a child at the same Santa Cruz Beach that her family is visiting. When she was younger, she wandered away from her father, who was supposed to be watching her, into a hall of mirrors, where she encountered a girl who looked exactly like her, and it traumatized her from then on.
From that point on she went on through her life with the feeling that her doppelganger was coming after her. As it turns out her fears were correct. The first night of their vacation, the Wilson family are attacked by another family who looks exactly like them, albeit more twisted and wearing red. The rest of the movie involves the Wilsons fighting off their doppelgangers and trying to make it to safety. As in turns out, the doppelgangers were actually sort of a secret program, called “The Tethered”, in which doppelgangers would have been used to control their real-life counterparts. The Tethered, lead by Adelaide’s doppelganger, Red, seek to take their turn on the surface of Earth, rather than the underground in a demonstration that is a twisted remaking of the Hands Across America campaign during the 80s.
The movie’s pacing is great, it starts off with the slow build up, showing Adelaide’s childhood memories and then cuts into the present, with her as an adult. As soon as shit hits the fan, the movie doesn’t really slow down from there and it really gets your heart pounding as you’ve now become invested with these characters. What it lacks in say, conventional jump scares like “Get Out”, it makes up for in fantastic storytelling and psychological horror that makes you question everything.
I usually go to see these kinds of movies with my dad and my brother and let me tell you that we were discussing the movie thoroughly afterward, trying to figure out all the symbolism in the different objects, figuring out the timeline, and deciphering the surprise twist ending. A filmmaker that can really get you thinking in a movie like that, especially a horror film that can often be lost and trying to get cheap scares out of an audience, or just overwhelm them with blood and gore, is a feat that few others can say they’ve achieved, and I think Jordan Peele certainly has.
The detail in which the symbols were chosen I think is something special as well. I believe the scissors that the doubles used to kill their victims with were a symbol of the “untethering” so to speak, that they would use these scissors to cut themselves off from their counterparts, both literally and figuratively. The rabbits that the doubles were forced to eat in the underground lab, could symbolize lab experiments, as rabbits are among animals frequently tested on, and by extent represent the doppelgangers almost “test tube” status. I have still not been able to figure out what the red jumpsuits symbolize. My brother suggested communism, or maybe perhaps it represents the colors of the Republican party, after all, Hands Across America was under Ronald Reagan. But that’s the cool thing about this movie is that there is so much to unpack and think about.
Not enough words can express how great of a job the cast did in portraying their roles, especially Lupita Nyong’o. It takes plenty of acting chops to be able to play two characters in the same movie, who are so similar to each other but yet are so incredibly different. Honestly, I think she should win an Oscar for this, it was impeccable.
Overall Jordan Peele delivers masterful sophomore effort into the horror genre, with great pace, great performances, and a spectacular psychological effect that will surely last with me.