Clarabel Smith ’20
Horror movies are often measured by different standards, not only from other movies in general but also depending on what kind of horror movie the audience expects. Occasionally, however, there is a horror movie that not only fulfills the horror fan’s desire for scares and gore, but that also has a strong visual language and engages with the themes of its plot in a way that is actually satisfying. Us, directed, written, and produced by Jordan Peele two years after his hit premiere film Get Out, is not a typical horror movie. The movie certainly doesn’t rely on jumpscares or visible gore to shock the audience. In fact, most of the two-hour film is not meant to shock. It does awe, however, in a way that left me with my mouth hanging open for the last act, and it stays with you so that you almost immediately want to watch it again.
The film follows a typical American family, the Wilsons, on a beach vacation to Santa Cruz. However, the mother Adelaide, played by Lupita Nyong’o, has disturbing memories of her own childhood at the boardwalk that begin to surface in uncanny coincidences. If you’ve seen the trailer or any poster you know the initial twist: the family is being hunted by their doppelgangers. Although this initial act is slow and relatively mundane, a sense of the otherworldly is everywhere thanks to the soon-to-be-iconic opening scene, which informs the rest of the movie and its twists.
Us is also a uniquely watchable horror movie for those who get spooked easily. Not that the movie isn’t scary, it just lets dread pool in mundane and action-filled moments alike. You could sit through the entire movie and be calm enough to notice the movie’s impressive “coincidences” and easter eggs, its fantastic soundtrack (look out for “F*ck Tha Police” in one hilarious moment), and the caliber of every actor, who all play their normal characters as well as their counterparts. Of these performances, Nyong’o’s cannot be overpraised. Adelaide goes from a nervous, protective mother to a brutal survivor within minutes of screen time, and Red, her doppelganger, only appears for a few scenes but dominates the entire movie. Winston Duke also should receive his fair share of praise for acting as initial voice of reason and ultimate dorky dad, while also adding intriguing depth to both this character and his terrifying counterpart.
For those who watched Get Out, Us is not a direct sequel. Although the movies do not share exactly the same themes, they both take the same attitude towards transforming an underlying social ill into a physical, horrifying threat. In Get Out, the main fear was of the “Sunken Place,” of the marginalization and victimization of racism. In Us, the main fear is of the “Tethered,” which Peele describes as: “the shadowy, mysterious ‘other’ that’s gonna come and kill us and take our jobs and do whatever, but what we’re really afraid of is the thing we’re suppressing: our sin, our guilt, our contribution to our own demise…” For me, the best horror movie is not one that makes you scream or gasp (although I certainly gasped watching Us)- it’s the one that keeps you up at night. And I’m going to be up for a while.
Us is showing at Seelos Theatre on Friday, November 8 and Saturday, November 9 at 7 pm.
Image courtesy of IMDb.