Where do you go from a ground-breaking, not-exactly-horror, not-exactly-comedy debut about the subtle ways racism thrives in the modern USA? The two of Jordan Peele’s horror directionals could not be any more different – Get Out being a novelty act does wind up expectations for Us a lot. Can the actor who does Comedy Central sketches teach the horror film industry a thing or two about original horror ideas again?
Like a lot of home invasion movies, Us starts off with the usual scary-movie troupes. You require a past-day event that transitions into the present-day story. A four-people African-American family that goes on a vacation to their summer home near the beach. You know its a situation where ominous signs will lead to payoffs later. Nothing is as it seems. A family outing that will lead to terrifying outcomes, changing the course of everyone’s lives.
Jordan Peele is no slouch when it comes to directing. Setting up the atmosphere, ensuring that the score suits the scene like a well-tailored suit, getting the best possible performance out of all the actors involved – its what he does best. The writing is solid too. You don’t want to show your cards all at once – you reveal them one by one when the time is right.
A throaty voice is not something that gives me nightmares, but this one’s will. Nyong’o deserves awards for the dual role she plays like a pro. Everyone involved is natural and fitting. Winston Duke is your standard dad, without being overly silly. The kids don’t get much time to shine, but they’re essential.
Overall, Us boils down to a solid second outing from Peele. The man who aimed to make a simplistic boilerplate horror manages to exceed expectations. You’ll be in dread even when the danger passes by because you know it hasn’t yet actually. The writing’s superb when the stakes are small and contained. But the ambition of man ultimately leads to his own downfall.
What could have been a simple cat-and-mouse game between the protagonists and their doppelgängers, turns into an event with worldwide repercussions? I wouldn’t hold it against Us for aiming for stars. But when you’re juggling with too many ideas, you will end up diluting them all.
To Jordan’s credit, he doesn’t let the whole thing turn silly. There is a twist akin to “I see dead people”, but it isn’t that hard to swallow. It’s one of those flicks where you have lengthy discussions with your friends afterwards in the parking lot. But once the debate is done, then what?