D: Jordan Peele
Universal/Monkeypaw (Jason Blum, Ian Cooper, Sean McKittrick & Jordan Peele)
W: Jordan Peele
DP: Mike Gioulakis
Ed: Nicholas Monsour
Mus: Michael Abels
Lupita Nyong'o (Adelaide Wilson / Red), Winston Duke (Gabriel Wilson / Abraham), Shahadi Wright Joseph (Zora Wilson / Umbrae), Evan Alex (Jason Wilson / Pluto), Elizabeth Moss (Kitty Tyler), Tim Heidecker (Josh Tyler)
Jordan Peele's follow up to Get Out is a horror film which is best to go into knowing as little as possible. I say this for a couple of reasons; Get Out was ruined for me because I already knew what it was about before watching, therefore diluting its power. I also think an up-and-coming filmmaker can have a lot of pressure on his shoulders when making a follow-up to their breakthrough, which can lead to disappointment if you have high expectations. So, with this in mind, I recommend watching Us first, then coming back to read this review.
Like Get Out, Us is also both a horror movie and a social commentary, awash with various symbolism which some might associate with America (the title itself is a pun on U.S.) and Peele cleverly uses symmetry and parallels throughout this home-invasion thriller, which expertly uses suspense and atmosphere to build tension.
The film begins in 1986, with a statistic that there are thousands of miles of abandoned tunnels beneath the surface of the country, and some are deemed to have no known use whatsoever. This is followed with a commercial on a television set about Hands Across America, a social experiment in the mid-1980's which was intended to unite the people. It's after this that the story begins, with a family visiting a coastal amusement park at night, only for the daughter (Adelaide) to become drawn to a mysterious man holding a placard which reads "Jeremiah 11:11" and then to an attraction called Vision Quest, where she gets lost amongst a hall of mirrors and sees a double of herself which is clearly not her own reflection.
Flash-forward to present day, when an adult Adelaide. along with her husband and children, arrive at their holiday home not far from the beach in the opening scene, which still haunts her in her adulthood. She reluctantly agrees to a trip to the beach so her husband can meet some friends. On their return home, Adelaide reveals to her husband why she felt unease there and later in the evening their home is invaded by doppelgängers of themselves. Later to be revealed as a society of people who have lived in tunnels, mirroring their overground counterparts precisely until their liberation.
The film does have a lot to take in, since much is told through mis-en-scene and dialogue which could easily be construed as throwaway lines resulting in an ambiguous story which will fascinate half the audience and frustrate the rest. Personally, I think ambiguity in movies is a strength, since it practically begs the viewer to watch the film again to decipher the plot and meaning. Is Us merely a horror about duality in mankind the same way Jekyll & Hyde depicts, or is it a social commentary reflecting on an affluent society who are completely unconscious to the poorer society who exist amongst them. There are more messages buried in the film which are completely subjective to the viewer, and though there are some plot holes and unanswered questions which will bother you if you let them, I believe this is an intelligent horror movie which will split an audience in ways that Mother! & Hereditary have in years before.
I can't finish the review without commenting on Lupita Nyong'o and her amazing, Oscar-worthy dual performance, as well as Michael Abels atmospherically chilling music score (as well as a clever use of songs scattered throughout the film).
Personally, I think this is a better movie than Get Out, but that may only be because I knew so little about this before watching, as well as being a fan of other horror movies of the ilk (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Funny Games, etc.)