I needed some time to sit and process Us before I could fully articulate what I think. This is a movie that can’t really be talked about without spoilers, so I’m giving you one more chance to bail before anything is ruined.
Okay, I’m assuming if you’re still reading that means that you have either already seen the movie or you’re a masochist who doesn’t mind spoilers.
Let me start off by saying I really, truly enjoyed Us. It was scary and different and the cast was absolutely incredible. Jordan Peele is a genius at merging horror and comedy in a way that I haven’t seen before. Even in the most intense scenes a well-placed and well-timed joke can release some tension, and give the audience a well deserved break before things get even more tense.
So what exactly is this clone/doppelganger horror flick really about?
The trailer did an incredible job of giving just enough without showing all the best scenes, which is a problem that plagues many horror films. There’s either too much, or it makes the movie look like something completely different than what it actually is.
The follows the Wilson family as they go to they head to their beach house for the summer. The family consists of mom Addy (Lupito Nyong’o), dad Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and son Jason (Evan Alex). The Wilson’s aren’t there for more than 12 hours before their exact doubles show up, and attempt to kill them.
The opening of the movie takes place in 1986, and we see a young family at a carnival on the Santa Cruz pier. Tension between the mother and father is clear, and the young girl with them seems extremely aware that things are unhappy between her parents. When her mother leaves to go to the bathroom and her father plays Whack-a-Mole the little girl wanders off and finds herself in a fun house. On the way, she passes a man holding a sign that says “Jeremiah 11:11”. Inside the fun house the girl gets turned around because of all the mirrors, and the scene ends with her bumping into what at first appears to be another mirror with her reflection only for her to turn around and the “reflection” to keep it’s back turned.
The audience is the thrown back into the present, and we join the Wilson family. When Gabe announces they are going to meet their friends at the Santa Cruz beach, Addy becomes visibly anxious. They bicker back and forth about whether or not the family will go to the beach, but eventually Addy gives in when Gabe agrees that they will be home by dark. This is the first moment it becomes clear that Addy was the young girl from the opening scene.
On their way to the beach they pass an ambulance loading a dead body into the back. The body has bleeding wounds, and carved into his forehead is “11:11” indicating that he is the man Addy saw when she was young. This is the first tip off (in modern day at least) that something is very, very wrong in Santa Cruz. Later at the beach, Jason goes to the bathroom by himself and sees a man standing with his back to him, with his arms out stretched, face to the sky, and blood dripping off his hands. Addy is in hysterics, and chastises her son for leaving without telling her where he is going, and the Wilson’s head home.
Once they’re home, Addy recounts her childhood experience to her husband. The flash back cuts off right as she and her doppleganger come face to face and adult Addy says “I ran as fast as I could.” And here in lies my first qualm with the story telling.
Let’s all be very honest for a moment: Jordan Peele, while an incredible horror writer and director, is still very new to horror. He has mastered so many specifics of the genre, and I’m so impressed by his work. That being said, Us is only his second horror film and with the genre comes so many nuances that I don’t think any first time horror director is able to perfectly master all of them. Peele tries to leave us a few bread crumbs to indicate that (and here is the first SPOILER) Addy is, in fact, the doppleganger we saw earlier who took her under ground and switched places with her. Where the flash back is cut off, the fact that we find out Addy did not speak once her parents found her, and her mother telling the child psychologist “I just want my daughter back.” were all supposed to be crumbs…in my opinion, however, they were more like neon arrows pointing to the switch that was made.
Of course! This is just my feelings towards it, and it may be different for other viewers. I will say that I feel as though Get Out was much more subtle in leading us towards the deeper sinister goings on.
So, we finally meet the other family. Let me skip right to the point: the Other Addy tells a story of “the girl and her shadow”, which is the only time I thought maybe I was wrong about Addy being replaced with the doppleganger. Later, once Addy has made it down to the facility where the dopplegangers were being kept the Other Addy explains that the were created to be “tethered” to the people above, and she thinks it was in order to control the people above. But jokes on them, because the the Tethered wound up being controlled by the people above. There are scenes that show what happens above and how the Tethered are controlled by the above ground people that are absolutely stunning. Tethered Addy, once she is above ground, is put into dance by her parents to encourage her to express herself. Peele choreographs a scene that cuts in scenes of Tethered Addy dancing on a stage above, and the fight between Tethered and Other Addy that is one of the most stunningly choreographed scenes I have ever seen on camera, and Black Swan is one of my favorite horror movies.
I have a lot of back and forth on this movie: on one hand, it is a stunning example of horror married with comedy, and it’s some of the most beautiful film making I have ever seen, but on the other hand there is a lot of rabbit trailing and some loose ends I would have loved to see better tied up.
All that to say, I enjoyed it SO much. I was scared, I was moved, I was challenged to think about deeper issues…and that is everything a horror movie should do for you. Also, Lupita Nyong’o gave one of the most incredible performances that I have ever seen. I have been thinking about it ever since, and honestly I want to watch it a million more times specifically for her performance. The fact that she is portrayed both our “protagonist” and our “antagonist” (though both Addys could be pro- and antagonist depending on your view) and you really feel like you are watching two completely different people’s performances is absolutely incredible. Regardless of how you feel about this movie, there is no denying her talent and the life she brings to these roles.
This is a movie I would really love to hear thoughts on. You can DM me on Instagram (@wickedlittleblog) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your thoughts. Please specify in the subject line that it’s about this if you email me!