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article imageReview: Us scares audiences with a piercing reflection Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 22, 2019 in Entertainment
Jordan Peele’s Us is even more frightening than his last outing as he delivers a genuine horror movie filled with suspense and monsters.
It’s long been believed that everyone has an identical, unrelated lookalike somewhere in the world. However, there’s little conjecture about whether these doubles are connected in any way other than their appearances. Do they have the same blood type? Do they experience the same kinds of injuries? Do their life trajectories parallel each other in any manner? Or are they polar opposites in every way? If the latter is true, would the less fortunate twin carry resentment for this fabled person living their best life? Director Jordan Peele’s Us addresses some of these questions with a disturbing twist.
When Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) was very young, she became lost in a boardwalk carnival’s house of mirrors. Now an adult with a family of her own, she’s returned to the same seaside town with her husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), and two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). Adelaide is doing her best to control her anxiety, but there’s been a number of uncanny coincidences since they arrived and she’s afraid they’re signs of an impending threat. Her fears are confirmed when they receive a group of late-night visitors — a family dressed in red jumpsuits that look eerily like them. But where did these doppelgangers come from and what do they want?
The film opens with a commercial for the oddly conceived, only-in-the-‘80s phenomenon, “Hands Across America,” which proposed people linking hands for 15 minutes from coast to coast. Film fans may notice the VHS tapes framing the television, including C.H.U.D., The Man with Two Brains, The Right Stuff, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and one of three Corey Haim references in the picture, The Goonies. Starting the film in Santa Cruz on the same boardwalk on which The Lost Boys was shot in 1986 is definitely not an accident. Peele is simultaneously paying homage to these formative movies, while examining the culture in which they emerged. The filmmaker has also been vocal about wanting to make a movie about a black family at the beach who buy a boat because it’s almost never shown even though it does actually happen.
The concept of the “other” is a pertinent topic at the moment — particularly one that suffers at the expense of those who prosper. The doppelganger concept is used to explore this idea of “them” and “us,” where one is barely aware the other exists and the other despises every second they live. The explanation for the lookalikes’ existence has a bit of a sci-fi element, but it’s almost offered in passing. The important part is they are here, they are angry and they have a plan.
There’s somewhat of a The Strangers element in the picture too as the doubles’ introduction is via a frightening home invasion in which they hold their counterparts hostage. An alternative strategy to this one is presented later in the movie, but the former is clearly designed to torment the family —particularly Adelaide, who Red, the opposing matriarch, blames for her horrific existence. Yet, in spite of the inevitable violence, most of the blows occur off-screen as it finds more effective ways to disturb viewers without graphic carnage.
Much like Get Out, there’s a slow-building suspense to the true terror of the film. But there’s something much creepier about this picture as it’s established early on that something dangerous is lurking around a nearby corner and its patience is growing thin. Adelaide’s constant uneasiness radiates from the screen, which is one of many accomplishments by Nyong'o in this movie. Her portrayals of Adelaide and Red are enthralling, driving the narration and creating two divergent personalities that could never co-exist. The entire cast plays their doppelgangers and all of their performances are exceptionally eerie as you’d never guess they were the same person — their transformations, both physically and emotionally, are so contradictory, it’s simultaneously impressive and chilling. Duke has the added duty of supplying the film’s comic relief, which thankfully alleviates the tension and gives audiences the occasional chance to relax.
The ending isn’t unpredictable, but it raises more questions than answers. There’s a nature vs. nurture debate as one wonders if the twins are inherently evil, or if they became that way because of how they’re forced to live. There’s mention of a soul making one person more “real” than the other, but how that idea is applied to the conclusion is puzzling. And most obviously, what happens next?
Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss
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