Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that this review has spoilers ahead. Riding off a wave of expectation and hype following his incredibly successful debut film Get Out, Jordan Peele returns to the silver screen with Us. Part-home invasion horror, part-psychological horror, and all-entrancing, Peele’s second film is a monumental achievement which springs to mind one word, above all: clever.
The cast were impressive – being their characters as humans and as doppelgängers, being not-quite the same character, must have been tremendously hard — but it paid off and was done convincingly. Every single second of acting by every member of the cast is impeccable and undoubtedly one for the books. Clean camerawork and a chilling score further enhanced the stellar acting of the cast.
Us is a clever film. From the storytelling, to the visual language and soundtrack, Peele has carefully crafted a piece of cinema that goes beyond the two-dimensional world it could belong to. Themes of trauma, fear of the unknown and the fear of confronting our (quite literal) demons are scattered throughout.
It’s clear that the mind of a horror fan constructed the world of Us, a myriad of classic horror tropes are used correctly for maximum effect while laying out clues for the audience to piece together during the film, after the credits roll and once more when they inevitably return to it.
A couple examples of these clues are: the shot of the dead twins being a carbon copy to the dead twins in Kubrick’s The Shining, and secondly, the song to which the ballet flashback is set to is a composition which plays on the melody of the hip hop classic “I Got 5 On It” which plays during the car trip in Act One. In an interview with Slate, composer Michael Abels explained the aforementioned musical in-joke and detailed the mystery behind the opening track – its nonsensical lyrics are meant to emulate the basic sounds of Latin while residing in an auditive uncanny valley.
Peele knows he’s clever and treats his audience as he would expect to be treated himself. The astounding attention to detail which challenges my knowledge of the world of Us and the world of horror as a whole simultaneously is something which I greatly appreciate.
Comparing Us to Get Out is unfair, they’re two completely different stories with different objectives. I will note, however, that I feel that Peele has made the racial commentary, which was evident in Get Out, more nuanced. While his debut was a case of ‘right time, right place’ in the state of affairs in American politics, Us goes beyond this for a horror which transcends national, and racial lines.
In the days after watching Us I kept coming up with theories as to what it all meant — I have yet to settle on one. This is what makes Peele’s film special; the universe established in the film leaves arcs slightly incomplete but with enough context as to allow for infinite speculation. Perfect horror is hard to come by, but Peele might have achieved it.