Entertainment » Movies

Us

by Padraic Maroney
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jun 13, 2019
'Us'
'Us'  

Available digitally now!

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Known as part of the comedic duo — and their self-titled Comedy Central show "Key and Peele" — Jordan Peele wasn't the most likely person to turn the horror genre on its head. All of that changed in 2017 with the release of "Get Out." Peele announced himself as a new voice to be taken seriously in horror, winning an Oscar the following year for writing the screenplay to the film. Attempting to prove he is not a one-hit wonder, Peele leans in heavier to the horror genre with "Us."

Following a brief opening set in 1986, "Us" fast forwards to present day with the Wilson family on their way to vacation. The family barely begins to settle in before strange coincidences begin to happen, leading to matriarch Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) deciding she wants to pack up and head home. Before they get a chance, however, the power goes out and a mysterious family appears in their driveway — neither is ever a good sign in a horror film.

Much like "Get Out" had the sunken place, "Us" introduces us to The Tethered. In a "Peter Pan" meets "The Time Machine" twist, The Tethered, as the characters' dark counterparts are called, are the shadows of everyone and have been forced to live a cruel underground existence, away from both the sunlight and happiness. But now is their chance to come to the surface and have their day in the sun by becoming untethered and killing their counterparts.

While "Us" might seem like a much more straight forward popcorn, horror flick, Peele has nuanced the film with just as much symbolism as his previous offering. Similar to how George Romero used his zombie films to address issues of the day, Peele is using his latest film to hold a mirror up to the audience and asking them to take a good hard look at themselves and the destructive nature of humanity in general. Some of it is subtle, while other aspects are in-your-face obvious. Whether you are looking to watch a thinking person's horror allegory or just want to see a bunch of people gets killed, the film works on both levels.

As Peele works to introduce these grander ideas, rather than simply creating a home invasion thriller, the film finds itself in a conundrum. The writer-director has given plenty of thought to the smallest of details, but as he explores the larger questions the film gets messier in its narrative, eventually going for one twist too many by the end. This makes the film stay with you long after the credits roll and you are basking in the warm sunshine, but it might also ultimately lead to some frustrations.

At a run time of just over two hours, "Us" makes you feel every minute of its run time. Rather than solely focusing on the Wilson family, Peele includes another family (led by Elizabeth Moss and comedian Tim Heidecker) that mostly serves as a distraction and garners some comedic relief. Moss, in particular, goes for broke as a boozy, wannabe former actress who's probably watched a few too many episodes of "The Real Housewives" shows. Expanding the universe to include these additional characters just adds to the body count without offering any real payoff.

Nyong'o, who has been criminally underutilized in Hollywood since winning her Oscar in 2014, is mesmerizing to watch in the dual role of Adelaide and her counterpart, Red. The two roles let the actress play both hunter and hunted, tormentor and terrified. Much like her director, Nyong'o proves that her Academy Award win wasn't just beginner's luck, and hopefully Hollywood will begin to offer her better roles that aren't mostly voice or screen capture roles.

"Us" works best when it traps the Wilson family in a deadly cat and mouse game with their counterparts from The Tethered, leading up to a choreographed showdown between Adelaide and Red unlike anything audiences have seen in a long time. Peele can safely breathe a sigh of relief that there won't be a sophomore slump, but he does go one twist too far by the end. Nevertheless, "Us" will leave you a little afraid of your own shadow.

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