Couple of years ago Jordan Peele exploded onto the motion picture scene with Get Out, an incredibly effective slice of social-horror that drew heavily on the African American experience in this day and age. Not only did it make stirring a cup of tea utterly terrifying, it was hugely successful and immensely entertaining and marked Peele as a major force to watch for.
Well, he’s back and he’s detonating the concept of the sophomore slump in spectacular style with Us, another horror film loaded with symbolism, screams and subtext.
Adelaide Wilaon, her husband Gabe and their two kids Zora and Jason are headed to their holiday home in Santa Carla for some peace and quiet despite Adelaide having a traumatic experience at the beachfront as a young child. Despite a weird feeling in the air, everything seems peachy until the first night when the Wilson’s are besieged by a beastial family wearing identical red jumpsuits and welding razor sharp scissors who imprison them in their home for the purposes of a ritualistic style murder. However, these are no ordinary home invaders as the Wilson’s realize that their captors are menevolant doppelgangers led by the raspy Red, a twisted mirror image of Adelaide herself. Joined by the hulking Abraham, the leering Umbrae and the fire-obsessed, animal-like Pluto, this other family call themselves The Tethered, but is there more to this than a “simple” home invasion or are bigger forces at play here?
While Us is may not be quite as instantly satisfying and neat as Get Out, what it is is far more ambitious and an exhilarating whirlwind of concepts and ideas that sometimes may strain credibility to breaking point but will entertain, thrill and will undoubtedly cause just as many after-screening debates as Peele’s debut film.
In fact, with Us, Peele may have very well proved be the natural successor to such thought provoking horror giants as David Cronenberg and especially the late Wes Craven. In fact the the central concept of two families violently at war while being on either ends of the class divide remind me heavily of Craven’s first two movies The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes but Us also targets such subjects as duality, gentrification and the endless debate over nature vs nurture but, crucially, never forgets to entertain first and foremost. An extra plus-note is the phenomenal use of the song “I Got 5 On It” with a hauntingly mutated version playing over the climax. Unforgettable.
The cast, led by a stunning Lupita Nyong’o, are all magnificent in both their roles as human and Tethered to the point you often forget you are watching the same actor converse with themselves. All bring an innate likeability to the Wilson’s and an unnerving weirdness to the doppelgangers (Nyong’o in particular puts in serious overtime bringing the weird) and you feel that the Tethered have a legitimate shot as becoming as memorable as other classic horror groups such as Hellraiser’s Cenobites or the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Yes, some might find the denouement a little vague for their liking but Us really is a film that will only get better with repeat viewings (you’ll see what I mean) and could very well be the peak in this year’s exceptionally strong horror line up.
A future horror classic? Count Us in.
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