A-Peele-ing Horror (Us review)

The follow up is one of the hardest things to do, and Jordan Peele had an extraordinarily high bar to reach. The Oscar winning ‘Get Out’ was his debut feature, and his satirical horror as been hailed a modern masterpiece. Thankfully, he didn’t crumble under the pressure, and his second film ‘Us’ confirms that he is a visionary filmmaker who’s just getting started.

To talk too much about the plot of Us would be to venture into spoiler territory. The premise is that an African-American family are tormented one night when a family of their doppelgängers come to visit them. Thrills, scares and twists then continue as the plot unfolds in a direction I was not expecting it to go. Peele has the confidence to go weird when it’s needed, as was demonstrated by Get Out, and the confidence he shows in both the writing and directing of this film is outstanding.

The cast are utterly stunning, particularly Lupita Nyong’o who plays Adelaide, the mother of the family, as well as her doppelgänger Red. Her performances of the two characters are poles apart, and it’s stunning how transformative the actor is in her decisions of the portrayal. Accompanying her is an equally brilliant Winston Duke as the father, Gabe, as well as his doppelgänger Abraham. Again, his characterisation of the two characters are so different, with Gabe being a hilarious dad-joke spewing guy and Abraham just being a hulking monster. The two kids, played by Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, deliver performances that stand up to the adults, and their doppelgängers are so creepy!

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about the film is that it is as funny as it is creepy. Jordan Peele, well known as one half of comedy duo Key and Peele, has always had funny bones, but here he has masterfully used this training to only make the film more terrifying. By laughing, we relax and are even more terrified, so by packing that many jokes into the film, it also makes it a whole lot scarier.

The design of this film is stunning, with cinematography by Mike Gioulakis providing a warmth and realism to the proceedings. There are so many iconic images that this film presents, and Mike’s beautiful imagining of them has made them even more memorable. Accompanying this, Michael Abels has written a stunning score, with ritualistic choirs, sharp string stabs and a cinematic reworking of ‘I Got 5 On It’ adding a real intensity to the film.

The film gave me very strong vibes of ‘The Shining’. A family, on holiday in another house, must wrestle with monsters and fear as their whole dynamic falls apart. Add into that a slightly creepy child, and the comparison is complete. With The Shining being arguably the best horror film ever made, this comparison to Us should be seen as the highest compliment.

Clearly, just as Get Out was a political statement, this too has it’s undertones. When the doppelgängers first meet themselves (it’s in the trailer) they begin to talk about the fact that they are ‘America’. This, to me, means that the film is about the social divide in America, the class war and the struggle between the haves and the have nots. It’s subtle, and is only there if you want to look for it, but this added political depth is what makes Peele’s films far richer than your average horror flick.

Overall, Us is another masterstroke from Jordan Peele. Incredible cast, beautiful cinematography, a stunning score, a fascinating story with political undertones, and even more White Rabbits than ‘The Favourite’, it has fully cemented Jordan Peele as a mastermind of contemporary cinema. I can’t wait to see what he does next!

5 stars 5

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