Kirese Narinesingh reviews Jordan Peele’s anticipated follow-up to Get Out.
If Get Out was a dip in the water for Jordan Peele, he has now dived in. Stunningly showing off his skills, he seems to go even bigger than before – as if he’s aware of the traditional “sophomore slump” of directors. More likely, what we see is an artist in development, experimenting with his vast, kaleidoscopic ideas. He’s also backed by a talented cast and a genuinely fascinating story, in which he seems to allow himself even more creative and imaginative scope. Unlike Get Out, Us is solidly fixed within the horror genre, but this should not imply that the film is in any way restricted to its conventions. It’s as if Peele is putting a mirror to our faces, and our expectations of horror, and saying: “Is this what you really want?”
The plot itself is uncanny. Peele plays on the theme of doubling; the title card quickly introduces the idea of another world, another self, beneath the ostensible idyllic “real” one by reminding us that there are numerous tunnels beneath the surface of America, simply left alone and ignored. The proceeding action is similar. It is like an excavation of the hidden and the ignored socio-political problems always lurking beneath the surface. Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), returns with her husband (Winston Duke) and her children to the beachfront she visited as a child. It is partly told in flashbacks, recalling the memories of Adelaide confronting her doppelgänger. At the same place that haunts her memories, the family is presently affronted by their own duplicates, dressed in red and brandishing scissors, which already tells you how bizarre the rest of the movie will be.
Oddly enough the bizarre quality is what makes the film so entertaining. There is this unsettling feeling of satisfaction at watching the violence, because it is so artfully made, and (of course) the because of the musical accompaniments of “Fuck the Police” and “Good Vibrations” that mesh so well with scenes of gore. The performance of the cast is especially noteworthy – Lupita Nyong’o should never be overlooked. She glides through both roles as Adelaide and doppelgänger so seamlessly; as Adelaide, she is a traumatised, almost stiff. As her double, she is as nimble as a ballerina, with a perfectly haunting stare. Winston Duke is also impressively convincing as the stereotypical “Dad” figure, preventing the tone from being too dramatic and breaking tension with his comedic input.
The film is like a troubled image, because what Peele really does is show the cracks in the mirror. If you’re completely confused by what I mean, that’s kind of the brilliance of the movie: it says so much all at once, about society, inequality, and the psyche, that it’s almost like Peele dissected the meaning of horror and gave us something even more troubling and deeply disturbing. It is suspenseful, but interlaced with the comic – after all, true horror is absurd. Us also has a most chilling twist – but even if you read this, you probably won’t be prepared for what Peele has saved to shock us.
Jordan Peele is setting himself up to be one of the greats. He almost reminds me of Argento or Hitchcock, for his sheer potential to be brilliantly different, and his daring style that sets him apart from the mundane, by-the-book storytelling we’re so accustomed to. You can see how meticulous Peele is in his direction – it’s almost like watching a ballet. Every step is manoeuvred gracefully and deliberately, but Peele is never rigid. He’s a skilled technician experimenting with new movements that could honestly go either way – a misstep or just the right beat. And most of the time, he succeeds. I talk a lot about Peele here, but credit must go where it is due. It is one hell of a movie.
Us is currently out in cinemas. Check out the trailer below: