Review: Peele provokes thought, terrifies audiences with 'Us'

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 at 8:46 PM

From Jordan Peele, the brilliant creator behind “Get Out,” comes his sophomore effort, “Us.” A simple, yet elegant title, “Us” plays with horror in a way not many films have been able to do. Much like its predecessor, “Us” introduces the audience to uncomfortable topics, hidden behind a thrilling and captivating story. A beautiful score accompanies the film, greatly enhancing the mood and plot.

The film stars Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years A Slave”) as Adelaide Wilson, a mother in a happy family who experienced intense trauma as a child lost on the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Adelaide is joined by her husband Gabe (Winston Duke, “Black Panther”), her daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and her son Jason (Evan Alex). The family dynamic we’re shown is honest and organic, never once feeling forced. We connect with the Wilsons almost immediately, which only enhances the tension throughout the film. They’re normal.

What begins as a family vacation rapidly turns into a night of terror. There isn’t much time spent waiting for the horror to begin. A few coincidences here and there only assists in the buildup of what we’ve known was coming: us. The duplicates of the Wilsons.

The amazing thing about the film is that while it’s in the horror genre, scaring the audience is not the end goal. The true horror of the film lies in how uncomfortable you begin to feel at the appearance of the doppelgangers. Their movements, expressions and actions don’t simply mimic the main characters, they are the main characters, in every meaning of the word.

“The soul remains one, shared by two,” Red, Adelaide’s doppelgänger, says as she confronts herself.

As the twists begin, we’re suddenly hit with a feeling of unease, which only continues to increase the longer we watch and ponder the ramifications in our own mind. That is the beauty of “Us.” We are our own worst enemy. The darkness that sleeps beneath, unseen, which has always been there, forgotten. That is, until we have to confront it face-to-face. Our greatest fear is undoubtedly the truth.

Similar to “Get Out,” there is much thought-provoking imagery, dialogue and action. Peele wants us to open up once again to participate in a dialogue that has long been left unspoken. While “Get Out” sparked a dialogue about race, “Us” seems to want to ignite a conversation about oppression. In countless horror films, our enemy is some supernatural or magical entity. Not in “Us,” where the antagonists are literally ourselves, flesh and blood mirrors. 

“What are you?” Gabe asks in the beginning.

Red responds with two words: “We’re Americans.”

Two people, exactly the same. Except one is privileged and free, the other tethered, a forgotten shadow. While we may not see it that way, the film’s ending certainly puts that thought in our head by confirming a terrifying thought most will immediately have in the beginning of the film. While it may not be a traditional horror flick, Jordan Peele certainly achieves his goal by doing the most terrifying thing imaginable, making us think. This is “Us.”

“Us” is now playing in theaters around the United States, as well as Cinemark Tinseltown in Erie.

Jason Hurst | @edinboronow

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