Warning! This review contains spoilers:
Us, the much-awaited sophomore effort by writer/director Jordan Peele (Get Out) offers a scathing look at the “haves and the have nots” perception of class and status, and the idea of personhood, all while ushering gold plated scissors into the Horror Hall of Creepy Objects. Set in modern-day Santa Cruz, California, the film centres on the Wilson family as they come face to face, quite literally, with themselves. These shadow people, known as “the Tethered,” look like them, think like them, and as their son Jason (Evan Alex) says in the trailer bait line “they’re us.”
It’s a bone-chilling line that encapsulates the message of the film. Or rather, it attempts to. While many wondered how exactly Peele would manage to live up to his debut masterpiece, Get Out, the answer simply is, he didn’t. Despite the overall success of the movie---Lupita Nyong’o (Little Monsters, Black Panther) delivers a performance worthy of all the awards as both Adelaide Wilson and the diabolical Red, the cinematography and shot composition are gorgeous, the soundtrack is haunting and infectious, and the dialogue walks the fine line between humour and horror--- Us stumbles where Get Out managed to sprint.
The phrase I’ve heard more than any others in conversations surrounding the film is simply “I still have questions.” And while it’s every director’s goal to leave audiences asking for more, to keep wondering, checking closet doors and under their cars, there is something to be said for a sense of, not finality, but understanding. But the explanations offered in the film, while intriguing, bring about more questions than answers and leave the central theme of the movie messy and hard to place. While the message in Get Out was concise, each step bringing viewers closer and closer to what Peele wanted to say, Us does the opposite. Each new bit of information pulls the audience further back, spiralling out until the bigger picture is impossible to truly see--much like the final shot of the film. The audience is left seeing the horror of the Tethered, hand-in-hand, stretching from coast to coast, without truly understanding the implications of that horror.
Despite that, Us still stands as a fantastic example of what horror movies should strive to be. Poignant, clever, well-directed, and undeniably very, very scary. The film leaves viewers unsettled and ultimately, ready to sit down and watch again in the hopes of understanding just what it was they’d seen.
And maybe that was Peele’s plan after all.