Jordan Peele’s Us brings the audience to Santa Cruz in 1986, where a young girl, Adelaide, wanders away from her father into a strange house of mirrors. Fifteen minutes later, she is found, with no recollection of what happened during that time. Swing to present day, and Adelaide is vacationing with her family at their summer home. Her husband, unaware of this part of her history, suggests a trip to the boardwalk. She finally agrees, and strange coincidences begin to mount up throughout the day. When they return home, some unexpected visitors are waiting for them…visitors that look exactly like them.
Expectations where high for me going into this one, not going to lie. I try to go in to movies avoiding everything that I can about them, working off of just trailer knowledge. And can we talk for a second about the trailer for Us? That trailer is a work of art; it’s intense, the music cues are perfect, and it tells you everything that you need to know about the movie going in. I was such a fan of Get Out, and the trailer for Jordan Peele’s first film was just as enticing.
(Official Trailer of ‘Us’ from Universal Pictures)
Watching this second film, it is very obvious that Jordan Peele is a horror fan. Us is rich with influences from horror, from The Lost Boys to Jaws to C.H.U.D. to The Twilight Zone and beyond. Seeing the influence of these classics in a horror movie is reassuring and comforting, because it tells us genre fans that we’re in good hands, and whatever happens over the next couple of hours, it’s going to be a fun ride.
The strongest aspect of Us is that is that it highlights the fact that horror can be gorgeous. Visually, the film is astounding. Adelaide’s giant candy apple at the start of the film is almost hypnotic, like Pennywise’s red balloon. The moment that she drops it in the sand, the audience knows that whatever is left of her childhood is done. The facial expressions on the doppelgangers perfectly straddle that line between comical and uncomfortable. You want to laugh because what they are doing and the expressions on their faces and the sounds that they are making are so bizarre, but stop just shy of being over the top. The entire cast took on the challenge of just leaning in to the weird, and it works. Lupita Nyong’o and Elisabeth Moss in particular do amazing work in this department.
The soundtrack is also pitch perfect, ranging from everything from a use of a very 70s The Omen style introduction to the story all the way to murders set to Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys. The use of ‘I Got 5 On It’ by Luniz in the trailer is fantastic, and I was happy to see it used just as effectively during an amazing choreographed sequence near the end of the movie.
So that leaves the story. I will say right now: the final act of this film is not for everyone.
As a seasoned horror lover, the twist at the end was pretty obvious from the beginning. I have seen complaints about the fact that it isn’t exactly a surprise. However, I loved it because it takes your focus off what is really important. This movie is not about the what but the why. The shining part of the story comes from learning what the doppelgangers want, and where they came from. The answer is pretty intense and horrifying, and is meant to make the audience think about balance in our own little universes. There is a flip side to every coin.
Where the ending fell a little flat for me was in an explanation. I am not one who requires a fully realized ending, nor am I a person who works hard to pick holes in things. Suspension of disbelief is a movie goer’s best friend. However, my problem with the ending of Us is the fact that there is a detailed monologue that digs deep and explains so much, but stops short of explaining even close to everything. The big picture is there, and we understand it, but the small moving parts of it are not there. While frustrating, I have had a great time speculating over it. There was a lot of conversation to be had when we came out of the theater. A movie that can be discussed is the dream. Anything that can inspire a conversation greater than, “What did you think? It was good,” will always tug at my heart-strings.
It wasn’t so much that I didn’t get a full explanation, it was more that it left me wanting so much more. I want to know what happens to this family next. I want more back story to fill in the gaps. I want to have a greater understanding of the motivations. I want a better idea of who the bad guys really are in this situation. These are all things that I can fill in the blanks on, and I have. The ending is such that you get a full story, but still long for a sequel because you really want to see it all fleshed out on-screen. The fact that I am so unsatisfied with where the ending left off, but am dying to see more, is a true testament to Peele’s visual style. It was beautiful and heartbreaking, and I want to watch more of his vision rather than fill in the blanks for myself. I hate spoon-feeding when it comes to movies, but in this case, I would gladly sit quietly and just absorb.
I am desperately trying to keep this review spoiler free, and I will, even though I’m dying to write about it. The movie is too new for me to want to spoil it for everyone. The ending is what needs to be discussed, but it is impossible to talk about it without giving everything away. Us is a movie that you just need to discover for yourself. I took a couple of days to really digest it, and that is how it should be. Love it or hate it, this one is going to be dissected for years to come.