Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ is a Stunning Nightmare

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Published March 27, 2019
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Lupita Nyong'o gives a mesmerizing performance in "Us." Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

“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

This disturbing passage from the Bible lingers over Jordan Peele’s “Us” like a shadow, as does the ominous opening text of the film. “Us” is a story tainted with pure anxiety and fear. Both the characters and the audience are left in darkness, never fully aware of what will happen next.

Peele established himself as a master of horror and cinema just after one film. “Get Out” combined terror and comedy to critique society and racism, while keeping audiences eagerly anticipating for more of Peele’s original work. Luckily for everyone, “Us” lives up to the hype.

“Us” centers around Adelaide Wilson, played by the astonishing Lupita Nyong’o, who is forced to revisit a traumatizing childhood experience when her family’s home is terrorized by psychotic doppelgangers. I’m going to avoid revealing anything else of the plot; the film is more enjoyable without knowing much background.

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“Us” is producer, writer and director Jordan Peele’s second film, following the critically acclaimed “Get Out.” Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

From the very beginning of the film, there were elements in “Us” that made it feel like two hours of full suspense. The cinematography, color and composer Michael Abels’ gorgeous, yet hair-raising score contributed to this. There were moments where I was marveling at Peele’s beautiful filming style and hilarious comedy and at the same time covering my face in fear.

There wasn’t an overload of gore and jump scares in “Us,” rather Peele used unsettling imagery and disturbing noises to provoke fear in audiences, in true Hitchcock and Kubrick fashion.

The movements and sounds created by the doppelgangers, sometimes referred to as “shadows” or “the tethered,” at first caused anxious laughter in the theater but soon transformed into shocked silence as the story progressed.

Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex not only wonderfully portray the Wilson family as frightened characters going to extreme lengths to survive, but they also play the “shadows” of their characters so well. The “tethered,” with their leather fingerless gloves, matching red jumpsuits and golden scissors, were bone-chilling and sinister. They will definitely join Norman Bates and Michael Meyers on the list of horror icons.

The combination of the ensemble cast, symbolism and the movie’s music, which includes the eerie score and creative remix of Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It,” all result in a well-crafted film.

Peele also includes subtle nods to horror classics, such as “The Shining,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “Jaws” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” all of which you can tell Peele drew inspiration from.

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From left to right: Evan Alex, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o and Shahadi Wright Joseph play haunting doppelgangers. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

The acting in the film was beyond exceptional. Nyong’o solidifies herself as one of the best actors of this generation, and I anticipate an Oscar nomination (hopefully a win) for her performance. Nyong’o is able to play two characters with such passion and ferocity, and the way she conveyed chilling emotion without even speaking a word is almost hypnotic.

“Us” is a terrifying and spell-binding film that is on its way to becoming a horror classic. This movie is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in a long time, and its originality and fresh take on the horror genre proves that Peele has a promising future of filmmaking ahead of him.

Overall, “Us” is an astonishing film that will blow audiences away. I left the theater pondering what I had just seen hours after the credits finished rolling, and I can’t wait to see the movie for a second and third time.

As much as I enjoyed this film, it unfortunately ruined rabbits, mirrors, boardwalks and the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” for me. I guess that’s the price to pay for experiencing such a phenomenal piece of cinema.

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