“Us” Cuts Open a Spot in Horror History


Jordan Peele

"Us": poster courtesy of Jordan Peele under Creative Commons License

Blake Berry, Fluco Beat Editor

5/5 (1)

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Jordan Peele, a comedian well-known for the popular Comedy Central TV Show Key & Peele, had his first foray into the horror genre in 2017 with his extremely popular film, Get Out.

The movie was unique to the horror genre, which these days seem to be almost solely populated by slasher flicks or basic family hauntings. Get Out brought new life to this genre with its unique horror story that focused on racism, evoking fear about social issues instead of monsters.

This was Peele’s plan–not to conform to the current form of horror media, but to bring a deeper commentary to the category. And he succeeded, as Get Out was met with critical acclaim, even winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2017.

Peele’s new take on horror continues with his new film, Us, yet another dive into creating scares with a deeper meaning. So does it deliver?

To be entirely honest, I walked out of the theater having no clue what I had watched. That sounds like it should be a really bad thing, but in a weird way, it wasn’t.I saw a few trailers for Us, and I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what was happening. To be fair, I was completely right about what are arguably the most obvious parts of the film.

However, Us, is also littered with so many underlying messages, pieces of information, hints, and foreshadowings throughout the entire movie. Things that seem irrelevant or unimportant are key to understanding anything that will happen in the entire two hours and one minute of Us.

The movie stars Lupita Nyong’o in the role of Adelaide Wilson, a mother with a haunted past. Adelaide’s family, including her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), and two kids Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), go on a family vacation to Santa Cruz, a place of intrigue for Adelaide, and ultimately the main setting of the movie. Adelaide is unnerved to return to a place she had once visited as a child, yet ultimately concedes, wanting to enjoy time with her family. After an evening full of coincidences and lost children (yet another major theme of the movie), the Wilson family returns to their house where they are faced with the main villains of Us: themselves.

Us uses an old and common trope in movies: the doppelganger. A doppelganger is a creature that has uncanny resemblance to another person, as if they were an exact copy.

This fantasy is reality in the world of Us as each person there apparently has their very own doppelganger, ultimately referred to as “tethers.” Something that I found so amazing about this movie is that each actor played two parts: their human form and their “tether” form. It was so intriguing to watch the same actors play such drastically different characters back to back. How exactly these doppelgangers result in horror is something you’ll have to watch the movie to determine.

On top of this, the cinematography is stellar. Although a character and their tether aren’t seen on screen together face to face, they’re shown together. There’s no disconnect between the two, regardless of there only being one actor. It is as if they are literally tethered together. 

Overall, Us is a great movie. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, covering my ears in case a jump scare–of which there weren’t many–was on the way. Instead of fully relying on loud scares that are sure to get a reaction out of anyone, Us opts for psychological horror. The unknown is the thing to fear in this film.

I was intensely impressed by the acting in this film. Peele picked some stellar actors and actresses for Us. Lupita Nyong’o completely blows it out of the park with her performance as each scene with her as both Adelaide and as Red, her estranged doppelganger, is haunting and commanding. Nyong’o even adopts a special voice for Red, one based off a disorder called spasmodic dysphonia, which causes compulsory twitches in the voice box, causing an extremely hoarse voice.  This decision to employ this techniquemakes it more and more apparent throughout the movie just how different and similar these two beings really are. I especially enjoyed seeing both Nyong’o and Duke on the big screen again, as I loved their performances in Black Panther.

Although Us has so much going for it, there are some regions where I think it falls flat. To start, and this is a minor spoiler, there is a major twist revealed at the end of the movie. This came from nowhere, but upon considering it later, I realized there were clues throughout the movie pointing towards this twist from the very beginning.

In addition, Peele’s hidden meaning of the story seemed a little too deep for me to grasp in one viewing. This could be because I was too afraid of what was coming next to be able to fully focus on what I was watching, or because I haven’t experienced the problems that Us addresses. Either way, whatever theories I had built throughout the film proved to be completely wrong.

I would encourage you to go see Us before looking up any of the hidden meanings or ending analysis. Experiencing the story on your own is a must, no matter how confusing it might be. This is one film that probably benefits from a second viewing. 

Us is truly great. I had some worries going in that Peele wouldn’t be able to live up to the standard set by Get Out, but those were put to rest very quickly. Not only is Us haunting, it lingers. I can honestly say that Us is the most recent movie to actually scare me, if not make me uncomfortable. The last movie that managed to do this to me at such an extent as Us was 2013’s The Conjuring.

I give this movie a solid 8.6 stars out of 10. Go see this movie. It is without a doubt the best horror film to come out so far this year, and future films are going to have a tough time taking that crown away.


Editor note: Speaking of The Conjuring, yet another film in their horror universe is coming out this June, Annabelle Comes Home. For more information about upcoming movies in 2019, whether horror or action, check out my article covering my most anticipated movies here.