By Nicole Fernandez | Staff Writer
It is only March, but Jordan Peele’s newest movie “Us” is the horror film of the year. It’s his second foray into the horror genre, after his 2016 hit “Get Out,” and he is two for two. There’s no mistaking that Peele is a master of manipulation and suspense.
Whereas “Get Out” is a thriller rife with social commentary, “Us” is a straightforward horror film that plays with the mind in ways reminiscent of the “Twilight Zone” (which he is set to direct in a re-boot of the iconic series). The film opens up at a lively fair, where a young Adelaide Wilson, played by the talented Madison Curry, wanders away from her parents into an ominous hall of mirrors. The entire time you’re anticipating something horrible to happen. When it does, you’re left with a sense of unease that doesn’t go away, even after the credits roll.
With that type of beginning, it was clear that events were going to move quick, giving barely any time to breathe between encounters. I was on the edge of my seat the majority of the time, one hand over my mouth and my eyes refusing to blink, afraid to miss any little detail. In a film laden in both audio and visual cues, I didn’t want to miss anything.
After her traumatizing past, a grownup Adelaide, now played by Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, returns to the lakeside house she grew up in with her husband, Gabe (Screen Actor’s Guild Award winner Winston Duke) and her two children, Zora and Jason (Shahadi W. Joseph and Evan Alex, respectively). Their serenity is soon interrupted by their own worse enemies: freaky, animal-like copies of themselves.
Alongside amazing performances from the cast, who had to play both the normal family and their doppelgängers, the cinematography and music created an atmosphere of never-ending fear. Not even the Beach Boys’ upbeat “Good Vibrations” could allay the building terror that something gruesome was about to occur. Much of the film was set to skin-tingling music that set up the scene before anything even happened. Plus, most of the scenes were drenched in shadows, portraying an entirely new phobia about what’s creeping around in the dark.
What I did not expect was the clever use of humor. Peele didn’t randomly drizzle in untimely jokes for the sake of pulling some dry chuckles. The comedic moments were mild and very few numbered, but they were able to uphold the theme of strong family ties more than the protectiveness of the parents. It also served to give several seconds of relief to viewers. To see that the Wilsons had maintained their sanity, and their lives, long enough to still share some humor amongst themselves was satisfying.
Foreshadowing was a major element that Peele incorporated into this film. To my frustration, many of these hints were only realized at the end. Peele kept you wondering for the entire duration when the answer was screaming, sometimes literally, right in your face. If you were able to catch on early, the twist ending would not be so shocking, but there’s never any fun in predicting what happens beforehand.
“Us” is a definite watch for any fan of Jordan Peele, horror, and modern mythmaking. My adrenaline was already pumping within the first several minutes and it stayed up throughout the insane experience this film puts you through. Peele dove into this version of horror headfirst and I am ridiculously happy he did.