I Am My Own Worst Enemy - Us (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Jordan Peele gives us another look into his world of horror with Us, a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Academy Award winning Get Out. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex; Us tells the story of the Wilson family and the harrowing night they spend escaping from sadistic jump-suit clad killers who look just like them. As a young girl, Adelaide Wilson got lost at the Santa Cruz boardwalk; wandering in to a hall of mirrors, Adelaide runs into a girl that looked like just like her… traumatizing her and leaving young Adelaide with PTSD. Fast forward three decades and Adelaide is married with two children, the Wilson family make their way back to Adelaide’s hometown for what’s intended to be a relaxing family get away.
It’s here the Wilson’s serenity is disturbed when an identical family of four, led by Adelaide’s doppelgänger Red, show up in their driveway at night. The shit literally hits the fan when Adelaide and her family are hunted by them, with each member of Red’s troop chasing after their looks-match counterpart. Not fully grasping why these people are trying to kill them, the Wilson’s have to fight for their lives as they learn this whole thing may be bigger than they originally anticipated.
Delving deeper into the horror element of Us, my first observation after the credits began to roll was how from the first frame… even before anything scary started to pop up… I was deeply uncomfortable. Seemingly mundane scenes held a quality about them that made me want to squirm. Much of the first act was spent setting up the eventual introduction of Red and her family, allowing for when Red finally graced the screen to act as the horrific result of all the anxiety you built up leading to it. The ability to create uneasiness in someone is a trait Jordan Peele showcased in Get Out, further doubling down on it here in Us. It’s a severely underused aspect of horror and something I wish more films used these days. Sure, it’s fun to go to a horror movie for a date night… snuggle with your sweetheart and jump in unison to the predictable yet still effective jump-scares; but what if instead you left the theater fine, got into your car, went home and as you crawled into bed you felt like something came back with you. That’s the kind of horror I crave and that is precisely how I felt after watching Us.
As far as the performances are concerned, Lupita Nyong’o deserves an Oscar nomination for this. She convincingly played a classic horror heroine in Adelaide while channeling get-under-your-skin levels of evil when she portrayed Red. Red’s speech pattern left more of an impression than the things she was saying or doing. Reminiscent of someone struggling to speak with a broken windpipe, Red’s guttural delivery and eccentric mannerism left me feeling incredibly uncomfortable. This was a feeling I couldn’t shake and even days after watching this film… especially if “I Got 5 On It” by Luniz plays on the radio.
Aside from Lupita, the film was surprisingly more comedic at times thanks to Winston Duke and his penchant for dad jokes. Gabe Wilson, as the family’s patriarch was both comedy relief and at many points the voice of reason. As Adelaide grew increasingly desperate, Gabe’s attempt at being level-headed topped off with a lame joke definitely helped to ease some of the tension, and trust me when I say there was a lot of tension.
Like Get Out, Us bookends with a plot-twist that acts as a form of subversive social commentary. I can’t get too into it here without spoiling it, perhaps I’ll write about that next, but I did not see it coming. From the opening scene to the eventual reveal I was going back and forth in my head trying to figure it out for myself. What I can say though is that the title of Us serves a dual purpose; theres the very real struggle of “us” versus “them” and the other is literally to stand for the US… as in the US of A variety. This is further hammered in when Jason exclaims “it’s us” when they first see Red and company, and also when Red says “we’re Americans” in response to Gabe asking who they are. Despite all this, they maintain an us versus them mentality through the entirety of the film, something that lends to the parallel between Red’s people and the plight of marginalized people in America.
Subtle where it needed to be, deeply subversive, genuinely scary. Jordan Peele does it again and to a far greater degree than he did with Get Out. While Get Out made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, it was still something I couldn’t 100% relate to. I have no idea what it’s like to be a black man in America. With Us, it struck a nerve in me. I have experienced the trouble that a marginalized person faces, and as someone who’s faced my own personal demons… I also know what it’s like to see a perceived enemy and realize it’s your own face staring back. I need to see this again, honestly you should do yourself a favor and see this too.
Pitch perfect horror