Guest Review: US (2019)

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Written & Directed By: Jordan Peele
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes

Jordan Peele has done it again.  He has given us Us, a horror movie that can and will throw you into your favorite existential spiral. Have issues with interpersonal relationships? Peele can prod at that.  Worried about the government or science meddling in things above their scope and being all secretive about it?  Peele can poke at that. Do you agonize over the complexity of the self or the soul or whatever we’re calling our essence these days?  Peele can haunt. your. brain. With Us Peele has created a piece of horror that is funny, visceral, meditative, vicious, wholesome (seriously, the Wilson family has no business being so heart-melting), and clutch-at-your-movie-buddy scary.

Us follows the Wilsons, a perfect American family of four (think warm motherly glances and bad dad jokes), through the most horrific night of their collective lives. One day into what should have been an idyllic family vacation, the Wilsons are confronted by a family that looks exactly like their own. But this other family is faster, meaner, and has a grudge to settle. Violently.

This is a film full of mirror images and reflections. There is a running theme of the number 11:11 (including a bible verse, which, imho, is a superficial reference only used because of its two elevens and threatening tone); a huge amount of visual storytelling done through reflective surfaces; and multiple recurring motifs and actions. Us is a thoughtfully crafted script (Jordan Peele) and piece of visual art (Mike Gioulakis), which will keep your mind busy making connections from start to finish and beyond – when you’re not too busy giggling with terror.

This is Peele’s second collaboration with composer Michael Abels who has, once again, created a creepy, beautiful backdrop to the film. The score is percussive, orchestral, grungy, and will undoubtedly raise the tiny hairs on the back of your neck.

Because Us is about a battle between look-a-likes (if you have watched one trailer for this movie I am not telling you anything you don’t know), we get the delightful experience of watching each actor conquer two vastly different roles. Evan Alex (Jason Wilson/Pluto) oscillates between a sweet and socially awkward boy to something terrifying and bestial; Shahadi Wright Joseph (Zora Wilson/Umbrae) pings from a baby-faced pre-teen to a psychopath who will give you the shivers; Winston Duke (Gabe Wilson/Abraham) morphs from a nerdy, lovable dad to a silent behemoth; and Lupita Nyong’o (Adelaide Wilson/Red) goes from worried mother to something else entirely.

Although the bulk of the movie revolves around the Wilsons, there is a delightful cameo by Elisabeth Moss (Handmaid’s Tale) and, weirdly, Tim Heidecker (of Tim and Eric notoriety).

Watching Us feels a lot like solving a puzzle box. Peele introduces a mystery, gives you the tools to successfully solve it, and then beneath that first mystery is a second and then a third and then a fourth mystery. We, as viewers, get to successfully figure out puzzle after puzzle, but there is another one waiting.

My movie-going buddy complained about the frequent use of humor in Us, which I feel compelled to mention only because I disagree so much. Peele very effectively uses humor to both cut and create tension, which takes a very particular kind of finesse. Let’s all agree that movies that subsist in one measly genre are boring and thank the many movie makers (Jordan Peele included) who dare to explore multiple genres at once.

See Us.  You will laugh and cringe and while both your brain and heart melt.

And look out for the subtle nod to Get Out! Everyone loves an Easter Egg.


Have you seen Jordan Peele’s ‘US’? Well, what did you think? 

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