As this is a recent release, this review will be spoiler free
Whenever you go to a horror film at the cinema, you are faced with a deluge of trailers for all other genre films, whether it be about some devilish murdering alien boy or the latest Stephen King adaptation about a misspelt animal graveyard. These remind me about how much I dislike the genre. Cheap jump scares, no story, character development and boring acting. By the time the BBFC age rating comes up, I feel like I’ve made a mistake coming along today. But I remember how much I enjoyed “Get Out” and am intrigued as to whether Jordan Peele can follow it up with this new film. The short answer is he can.
One of the great horror films is undoubtedly the Shining. The palpable tension without the need for jump scares brings in a real unique style, with memorable camera shots, a strange plot and stringing you along on this journey. Peele’s film certainly pays homage to this style, whether through the opening overhead shot of our family being in a car in a woodland, or our antagonists always wearing red.
You and Me
Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) had a traumatic childhood incident at the beach. Her family return to this place on holiday. Understandably, she is nervous and intense. These emotions increase as the day goes on. The first thirty minutes of the movie aren’t scary as we are introduced to this family. It’s all quite light-hearted as we start to get to know and like these characters. In the evening, the family sees another family on the driveway, whom the son, Jason, notes look exactly like them. Immediately, these doppelgängers reign havoc. From this point it’s your typical thriller/horror sort of film.
Along with this horror comes humour. Any horror moments are offset by funny dialogue or a humorous soundtrack. This made the film scary, yet enjoyable. There are very few jump scares. Jokes didn’t feel forced in but felt natural for the tone of the script, hitting a fine balance. Nothing gruesome ever happens. By the end, there is less humour and more raw emotion. These last few scenes feel more of a psychological thriller.
One of us, One of us, One of us…
One way in which this film is unique, is that you get to know the doppelgängers a bit. They reflect weaknesses within the characters and while similar are totally unique. All four main actors also brilliantly act as their doppelgängers. The physical movements are the main differences between the characters, as are the mindsets. Nowhere is this more evident than for Adelaide. She lives in abject fear, stress and panic for her family. Her doppelgänger is cold, sadistic and desperate to be free. The throaty voice she puts on is chilling. The two extremes that Nyong’o had to put herself through no doubt would test any actor to their limits and she pulls them off brilliantly.
People who don’t like horror will be asking “Is Us like Get Out?”. The answer is not really. Peele likes to use emotions and create strong characters without going deep. There is also wonderful imagery and themes. But this film is more of a horror than Get Out. While Get Out was officially horror, it never really was. There is much more immediate danger to our characters. The build up is much quicker than the slow growing tension in Get Out. This film won’t give you nightmares, but if you’re allergic to horror films, you might want to miss it. I imagine that if you liked Get Out, you will be fine. Despite the characters all carrying scissors, this is more symbolic and they don’t do anything horrific with them.
Tell me about the rabbits George
One thing that Peele does brilliantly in Get Out and Us is imagery. Having Adelaide in handcuffs for most of the film shows her as a prisoner. The visual appearances of the doppelgängers, and the contrast between light and dark show two different worlds brilliantly. Even the title shot showing caged rabbits says something. There is a repetition of the bible verse Jeremiah 11.11. As well as being a significant bible verse, the symmetry is also very clever.
I interpreted the whole film to be a damning reflection of inequality within America. I’d be interested to know what you think. I may decide to write more about it if I have time.
However, my main issue with the film is the end. Peele takes imagery one a bit too far with an odd twist. This is at the expense of the plot. While the twists have fascinating insinuations, they feel like a disservice to what you have invested in over the last couple of hours.
**Note** I have thought about this film more and looking back, the shock twist, the more I’ve become ok with it. I would like to watch this film again.
Jordan Peele brings out a second brilliant film full of imagery and tension, without being gruesome or cheap jump scares. It’s a horror film for those who both like and dislike such films. While enjoyable most of the way, an under-cooked end may leave one with a slightly bitter taste in their mouth.
Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.Jeremiah 11.11