Menagerie Menagerie Feature

Rant and Rave: Us

In pop culture, it sometimes takes a while before a film director’s name becomes associated with a certain level of quality. Though for Jordan Peele, it did not take very long. Perhaps a part of it can be attributed to the fact that his name was already relatively well-known before taking on directing roles, being one-half of the core duo behind Key and Peele, but one cannot dismiss how much of an impact Peele made with his 2017 directorial debut, Get Out.

Not only was it such a departure from his usual comedic antics, but it also delved into the depths of the horror/thriller genre with such sangfroid, weaving a nail-biting story with themes centering around racial commentary. So when news first surfaced that Peele would be getting back on the directing chair for Us, with the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke under him, there was the feeling that exciting times were ahead for horror fans.

Starring Nyong’o, Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex, Us tells the story of Adelaide Wilson, a woman haunted by a traumatic experience, returning to a beachfront home from her childhood with her family. She grows increasingly frightened throughout the trip, with her fears coming into fruition when she and her family are attacked by four strangers who look eerily similar to them.

The film is held up by very strong performances from the entire cast. Considering that every main character actor must play a doppelgänger version of themselves, each member of the cast is tested to the very limits of their acting ability—nobody bends.

Nyong’o in particular provides what can be described as an Oscar-worthy performance. Film awards are infamous for ignoring horror movies in deciding on the best of the best, but even the most uncompromising will have a hard time ignoring what Nyong’o has done here. Being the main protagonist and antagonist of the film, she is required to sell a slew of emotions, brought forward with a level of nuance and mastery that only an actress of the highest caliber can do. Here, she reminds the audience of the amount of talent that she has, proving herself to be one of the finest actresses working at this moment.

Truth be told, the entire film is brimming with quality. The cinematography, courtesy of Mike Giouslakis, is eerie and unsettling, framing subjects with perfection and slipping in creative imagery in such an ordinary space. The costume design is stellar, especially the red jumpsuits the doppelgängers don.
The music present in the film also adds so much to what makes it great. It’s difficult to believe that this is only composer Michael Abels’ second time composing for a film—his first time being for Get Out—but he treats audiences to a phenomenal score here. It is one that captures the air of terror and mystery present all throughout the film. The movie also utilizes songs and music that complement the tone and storytelling to a tee. In particular, Luniz’s I Got 5 On It is a highlight from the film, and will never carry the same tone from this moment on.

Us is absolutely thrilling from start to finish. Peele’s direction without a doubt exemplifies what a quality writer and director he is. He proves to have a comprehensive understanding of the horror genre here, and brings together a film that is both enthralling and terrifying at the same time—incorporating slasher and home-invasion elements alongside those of mystery. Peele proves that his success with Get Out was no fluke, as he provides another glimpse into his ability to create compelling characters, weave a gripping narrative, and manifest horror into the very depths of any audience member’s psyche.

Truly, the biggest strength of this movie is the questions that it forces onto its audience. Too many times in other stories, we are given answers to questions that we don’t necessarily ask. The several answers provided for audiences are enough to form a part of the entire picture, but Peele leaves out just enough, trusting in the intelligence of his viewers, as if saying, “You figure it out yourselves.” This may sound like it should detract from the movie, but we as the audience are given so much to think about and to play with in our minds, that it makes how hard the movie hits that much more lasting.

The story present at the heart of Us is one that can be as personal as one desires; people can really make of this film what they want it to be, coming away with many different interpretations of what the movie’s aspects may mean.

Yet, whatever one’s initial takeaway is from a viewing, Us is a film that begs to linger in your thoughts, asking that you constantly think about it and the messages it may carry. It is a story that has so much potential for repeat viewings, in a way evolving as your understanding and familiarity with it grows. The story is woven with such care and thought that it truly leaves so much to unpack, now and for future audiences.

Us is a fantastic second outing for Jordan Peele, who is only proving himself further as a director with his own vision and brand of storytelling, capable of melding themes of horror with social commentary. He is, after all, a storyteller who has a desire to make his voice heard. The film is thrilling, threading horrifying elements into an expertly crafted story that ties itself into America’s roots. It implores discussion to arise from the themes and ideas he brings up. Peele is two for two at this point, and surely by the time he puts out his next nightmare, audiences will be ready in cinema seats, hands covering their faces, with the slightest gap between their fingers, both with fervor and dread for what is in store.

Rating: 3.5/4

Westin Perez

By Westin Perez

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