By: Max Liebel
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- Jordan Peele’s first film “Get Out,” was a critical and commercial hit. Peele masterfully interwove racial issues of our time with subtext to artfully create a horror masterpiece. A masterpiece that won him a Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars in 2017. This raised the anticipation for Peele’s sophomore film, “Us,” exponentially.
“Us” stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke (mother and father), both of “Black Panther” fame and introducing Evan Alex and Shahadi Joseph (children) as the Wilson family. Each actor and actress portray their dopplegangers as well and all contribute stellar performances in the film.
The films plot is centered around the Wilson family’s yearly trip to their summer home in Santa Cruz. But this year is different as Adelaide (Nyong’o) begins to become uneasy when she remembers a traumatic childhood event where she saw a little girl in a fun house that looked exactly like her. Since that day she has been haunted with the idea that the girl may someday come after her.
The family takes a day trip to the beach which just so happens to be the location of the fun house. When the Wilsons are attacked in their home that night by their doubles, Adelaide comes face to face with the ghost of her past. Adelaide’s double, Red, (credited in the trailers) describes to her how every night since the incident she had eaten rabbit while Adelaide ate well and played with sharp toys while Adelaide played with soft ones.
When Gabe (Duke) asks what they are, Red simply replied “We are Americans.”
You soon find out that the Wilsons doppelgangers are part of a group called the Tethered and that seemingly everyone in America has a tethered. They are a group that live in communities beneath the surface of American cities and spend their days mimicking the motions of those above all the while sleeping in cots, eating rabbit and living in squalor.
What ensues is a night of terror and suspense that will keep your eyes behind your hands, all while wondering what will happen next. However, this is a spoiler free review- but the climax and ending of the film will have you questioning everything you’ve just watched and demands a second viewing.
On its surface, “US” is a story about a family being stalked by their doppelgangers. However, Peele challenges the audience with sub narratives about the U.S as a country, social class and the duality of man. More narrowly, the duality of American citizens and what we take for granted. Hands Across America, a Reagan era benefit event meant to fight poverty, hunger and homelessness is referenced in the film multiple times. Without giving to much away, this event is subtly tied to the Tethered and their origins. This further represents an uprising of the underclass and how those on the surface have a fear of the other, even if the other looks like you and everyone else.
Contrary to what other reviews may say, if you are looking for the scariest movie you’ve ever seen, “US” is not the film for you. Granted it is genuinely scary and the suspense building is in a league of its own. This is a beautifully crafted film that has managed to get its point across all the while keeping your heart racing. It may not be the scariest horror film ever but it certainly is the best horror to come to fruition in decades. 10/10