By Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
Over this past weekend, Academy Award winner Jordan Peele released his highly anticipated second film, Us. His first film Get Out was met with critical praise which is why it received multiple Academy Award nominations and won the award for best original screenplay. This came as a surprise to some since most of Peele’s work was featured on Comedy Central. His next film once again tackles the horror genre and it appears that he has made another original piece. Us breaks from most of horror’s stereotypical tropes, crafting a horrific and mysterious story that captivates the audience.
The film follows the Wilson family on their annual summer getaway to Santa Cruz. During their stay, they explore the surrounding beach, accompanied by the Tyler family. Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, has a difficult time returning to the area due to an unexplainable encounter she experienced at the same beach when she was a young girl. Throughout their vacation, she is constantly reminded of her trauma which progressively overwhelms her. Later that night at their summer home, a mysterious family appears outside.
These figures are revealed to be identical to the Wilson family, each member having different features, different names and a desire to kill. After they narrowly escape the murderous dopplegangers, they discover that they aren’t the only ones experiencing this. As they attempt to outrun their counterparts, they slowly discover more about the impending and expanding phenomenon.
Winston Duke plays Gabe Wilson, the father of the family, and the main source of comic relief in the film. While most of his comedic dialogue felt natural to the character, there were times where his interjections were distractingly unrealistic. A specific example of this is when the Wilsons are escaping their summer home. As they frantically get into the car, Gabe initiates a playful argument regarding which member had the highest kill count. This comedic break reminds the viewer that they’re watching a film and it breaks the immersion, though it was only occasional.
The dopplegangers, which are referred to as the Tethered, wear red jumpsuits and are equipped with shears. Each actor does an effective job portraying their corresponding character. Most of the look alikes cannot speak and all of them are incredibly creepy in nature, which makes them an intimidating and horrific force. For most of the film, the Tethered are either seen in the distance and when they are confronted, they are usually overcome with the need to kill. The feral nature of the dopplegangers makes them all the more mysterious, however small clues are left in order to keep the viewer engaged. Even though they do eventually unveil most of the mystery, the answers seem to warrant more questions and will require multiple watches in order to pick up missed details.
Peele’s direction of the film is what sets it apart from others. He uses Adelaide’s childhood experience to pave the way of the film by constantly referencing aspects from her life and how they are reflected in her counterpart. The film is effectively paced, while it is mostly a slower film, the camera work and dialogue keeps it from feeling dull. One aspect that was significantly different about this movie was the musical score. Most horror films tend to have an incredibly dramatic score in order to heighten the intensity.
While the score does borrow from its traditional predecessors, it mostly relies on varying ambience, environmental sounds and silence. This forces the film to focus on its cinematography and Peele takes advantage of that.
Overall, this film is better than Peele’s predecessor. It conveys a unique story that will leave audiences on the edge of their seats with the subtle aspects that invite them to investigate and analyze it further. Us successfully creates a horrific atmosphere that most modern horror films are missing. Peele seems to have another critical and financial success on his hands.