There are two types of horror films: Slasher Scary and Smart Scary. Hitchcock was the original master of Smart Scary, and now Jordan Peele is his oh so worthy successor.
I’m writing this less than an hour after leaving the screening. I tell myself that I’m staying up late so I can give a prompt review to all of you. But truthfully, deep down (okay, maybe even not that deep down) I really don’t want to turn the lights off and go to sleep. Us, Jordan’s new horror film, is unsettling in all the best possible ways.
Spoilers Ahead for Us
I don’t want to do a “recap” and giveaway too much. But you would be well served to see this film as soon as possible since several of the scenes from the movie will likely be referenced in memes or on late night.
The film follows a family on vacation at their ancestral summer home in Santa Cruz, CA. Adelaide, played fiercely by Lupita Nyong’o, is the mother of two kids and haunted by her childhood past at the Boardwalk.
She gets uneasy and tries to leave, but her past catches up with her. Literally.
A zombie-esque family of doeppelgangers shows up on their driveway. They’re not stopping by for a get-to-know-you cocktail. They look the same, but they’re bigger, stronger, and, in their own way, smarter. Adelaide believes this is only happening to her family, given her childhood trauma at the beach. But once they break out of their home, they realize an apocalypse is at hand.
The story itself has all the makings of a typical horror film. But it’s the way the story is told that elevates this movie.
Peele Back The Layers
Jordan Peele, who won the Original Screenplay Oscar for Get Out, knows how to tell a story, and is confident enough as a director to take chances.
As viewers, he has us trained to scour every scene, every shot, for breadcrumbs. And this film is filled with them! Some are obvious, such as the TV commercials from the mid-eighties and the boat. Others are much, much more subtle. I’ve already referenced one in this post, and you may not have even noticed yet!
There are certainly violent moments in Us, but that is not what Jordan trades on. Most of the truly violent acts are committed just off camera or on a wide shot. Jordan uses a smart script, intricate shooting techniques, and amazing performances to scare the bejeezus out of us.
With his second hit in a row, he is two for two in creating masterpieces. He has passed M. Night Shyamalan to become the defining auteur of this generation. And he’s up there with Wes Craven and Alfred Hitchcock among the all time greats.
There is even an homage shot to Hitchcock, when a flock of birds all land at the water’s edge during a beach scene.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Rosé. Not a glass. You’re going to need the bottle. So while I let my wine breathe, I will be locking the doors, hiding the scissors, and really hoping my zombie twin doesn’t hate me.