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Review: Jordan Peele's "Us"

Here’s to “Us”: A Review of Jordan Peele’s Eerie Sophomore Film

by Haley Yordanoff

Courtesy of Monkeypaw Productions and Universal Pictures.

Courtesy of Monkeypaw Productions and Universal Pictures.

I have a complicated relationship with the horror genre. I can’t get enough of the morbid, dark worlds presented in movies and books, but I hate the unsettling and anxiety-inducing effect that comes with it. When I first learned about Jordan Peele’s “Us,” I approached it with the same wary curiosity as I did in fourth grade flipping through pages of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” Peele presents a larger, more complex world in his second movie and shows how horror can be more than jump scares and gore.

The story follows Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) as she travels to her childhood home in Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), and children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). The return to her hometown causes Adelaide to confront a traumatic incident about 30 years prior, and she begins to sense a looming danger surrounding their family. The Wilsons then see a family in red jumpsuits at the end of their driveway, noticing the strangers have an uncanny resemblance of themselves. The family soon finds out the strangers are clones of the Wilsons, showing distorted and grotesque personalities of each member. The family must fight for their lives while figuring out why these strangers are after them.

Peele gives a refreshing take on serious horror by adding cinematic elements not often seen in these types of movies. Peele’s use of cinematography provides artistic shots that allow tension to build and break without a need for jump scares. An added mix of humor throughout the film makes the characters relatable. The Wilsons react to situations how a normal person actually would; There are no exaggerated screams of terror, they stay together when possible, and they joke around as a way to cope with the horrors they face. The actors play both their original characters and their clones, and Lupita Nyong’o shines as the matriarch of both families. Adelaide is strong-willed and caring, while her counterpart Red’s low, strangled voice adds to her conniving personality.

While Peele’s first film, “Get Out,” shows a clear-cut message of race in America. “Us” is more ambiguous. Although the main family is black, Peele decides not to focus on their racial identity; A higher emphasis is placed on the socioeconomic class system in the U.S. and how the lower class’s needs are often ignored. Some questions are not completely answered by the end of the film, but there is enough substance to leave viewers satisfied.

Although Peele does run into a few small horror clichés, the artistic elements easily overshadow them. With the additions of humor and realism, “Us” is a unique film that extends beyond a single genre. The film is worth the watch, even for those who usually watch scary movies peeking through their fingers.