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Reviews

Review: Us [Spoiler Free]

March 25, 2019

An onslaught of violence, terror and doppelgangers in new horror film, Us.

What’s Going On?

A family holiday back to the beach she visisted as a child brings back unsettling memories for Adelaide and triggers a sense of something truly terrible coming. Unfortunately, her feelings are proven right when late at night a group of four people, a family, are spotted hanging around outside their holiday home. As Gabe, husband and father, confronts the group things quickly escalate and soon it’s a house invasion at which point Adelaide, Gabe and their children realise their attackers look exactly like them.

Behind The Scenes

This is the second film by Jordan Peele after 2017’s Oscar-winning Get Out and expectations are high. Peele was known primarily for many years as one half of comedy sketch group Key and Peele, who while not well known in the UK were a big deal in America. After two films Peele is already making a name for himself as a master of horror and he seems like the perfect person to present the rebooted Twilight Zone. As someone who is not a huge horror fan Peele’s films have had a big impact on me.

In Front Of The Camera

Most of the cast play two characters so Winston Duke has to be both reassuring father Gabe and violent brute, Abraham. While the focus is on the whole family Lupita Nyong’o is undoubtedly the star of the movie with two amazing performances as Adelaide and her doppelganger, Red. The children, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, are both great and are especially creepy when being the doppelgangers.

Does It Work?

As I said, expectations were high after Get Out and this film met those high expectations. As soon as the doppelgangers arrive the film is a non-stop terrifying ride. Each doppelganger is their own unique brand of horrifying: Adelaide’s speaking in a rasping voice about what horror she has been through and what awaits, Gabe’s is a brute dishing out violence at any opportunity, Zora (the daughter) has an unsettling manic look to her and Jason (the son) acts more like an animal, scuttling around the room with a very creepy mask. Each doppelganger takes on the original in an apt way (e.g. Zora is told to run and is chased by her double as Zora had recently discussed quitting Track and Field events) which suggests an in-depth knowledge of the family.

The film has many twists and turns and unexpected events so I won’t go too much into the plot so as to avoid spoilers. The normalcy of the family at the beginning sets up a wonderful family life. Gabe is such a “Dad” character making stupid jokes, telling off the children and insisting on planning activities none of the others wanted to do – I assure you, Gabe, nobody wanted to go fishing. There are problems that are hinted at such as Adelaide’s possibly traumatic past and how Jason seems to always wear a mask (I couldn’t work out whether it was meant to be Chewbacca or just a generic creature) but overall they seemed a very happy family. The film also manages to be funny, especially before the horror gets going, it’s a rather nice comedy of a happy family and is a gentle reminder that for a long time Jordan Peele was primarily a comedian.

Adelaide’s character goes on a harrowing journey that begins with her as a terrified mother, relying on her husband or the curiously missing police to save them to a truly formidable presence. It is hard to overstate just how brilliant Lupita Nyong’o is in the film, playing the fragile Adelaide or giving intense monologue’s as Red to Adelaide finding her strength.

The film primarily seems to be about identity and the feeling of how if things had been different you could be a completely different person. What connection does a genuine doppelganger have with you? Who has the greater claim to “your” identity? Does undergoing horror make you horrific? Are we only good because we live in a pleasant society where you can make a life without being bad? The viewer is left to make up their own mind about most of this.

Of course this isn’t just a philosophical film about identity but a brutal horror movie. The violence feels awfully real and a great deal of convincing blood is shed. The sheer oddity of battling a mirror image of yourself increases the disturbing nature and surely everyone watching would be imagining how they would have handled their own evil doppelganger.

The films looks great. The doppelgangers have a very distinct look, wearing identical red boilersuits and a single leather glove and all are armed with very sharp scissors (at the cinema I saw the film at the staff wore the same red boilersuits). The image of the doppelgangers standing outside in the darkness, barely illuminated, is very disturbing and memorable. Jason, the first to spot them, instantly identifies them as a family and I think that is exactly how they appear. The beach town is a beautiful backdrop to the horrors than unfold, a favourite touch of mine was the carnival attraction that young Adelaide gets lost in, in the 1980s its a cultural appropriating Native American “spirit journey” but in the present a more generic, and less offensive, Wizard Forest.

The film also uses music really well. I don’t know if I’ll ever listen to Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys without getting a chill down my spine. But there is a trade-off that because of this film I might laugh at Fuck The Police by N.W.A. The original soundtrack is positively chilling with the song “Anthem” bringing dread, fear and auditory flashbacks to many other great horror film soundtracks.

This film is a success on every level and I’m surprised to say that I might have actually enjoyed this film more than Get Out. If you’re a fan of horror or not go and see this film – albeit it might be too much for the very squeamish or easily creeped out.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Us (Official Trailer)
Richard Norton
Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.

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