“I will bring evil on them which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” – Jeremiah 11:11
30 years ago, Adelaide Thomas wandered into a hall of mirrors by the sea and came face to face not just with her reflection, but a living, breathing doppelgänger of herself. Addie never saw the girl again until she returned to the beach as an adult with her husband and children – but now her mirror image has a family of her own, and they’re looking for blood.
Us is directed, written and produced by Jordan Peele, and is just as nightmarish as you’d expect from the Oscar-winning Get Out creator. Starring Black Panther’s Lupita Nyong’o as both the charismatic mother Addie and the broken, blood-curdling Red, this horror flick is genuinely chilling from start to finish and contains some of the finest horror scenes to grace the silver screen.
The opening credits scene alone is enough to leave the audience considering whether they really want to stay and continue watching the film, as we pan out to a wall stacked full of caged rabbits to the sound of Michael Abels’ phenomenally chilling score. This unsettling, thought-provoking imagery echoes throughout alongside other Carroll-esque themes such as tunnels, scissors and glass. The commentary in Us is less explicit than in Get Out but very much still present, with multifaceted messages centring around privilege, nature/nurture and PTSD.
Mike Gioulakis’ flawless cinematography gives viewers a constant sense of paranoia and discomfort as mundane settings are twisted into grim chambers with malice lurking around every dark corner. Our likable and authentic lead family are constantly at threat from their dark analogues, including Nyong’o’s fellow Marvel Universe star Winston Duke as her husband Gabe. Even Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex avoid the trope of bad child actors in horror films with their frightening performances as the offspring of the Tethered family.
Us allows room to breathe with numerous comedic scenes, mostly with Gabe as the butt of the joke. These are generally funny and well-timed, but a few feel out of place and downplay the gravity of what is happening. This stops being a problem by the final act of the film, where Peele fires on all cylinders to craft some truly unforgiving horror.
The overall plot of Us is somewhat thin, with much of it focusing on Addie and her family fleeing from their pursuers – more seasoned horror fans will also be able to discern the plot twists quicker than others. Luckily, Peele keeps the audience entranced with his masterful execution of almost each and every scene, and the true nature of the Tethered carries enough weight to keep it lingering in viewers’ minds long after they’ve left the theatre.
Perhaps even more so than its brilliant predecessor Get Out, Us is a perfect example of all of the elements of a horror masterpiece on top-form. Jordan Peele’s harrowing ideas are given unearthly form through the marriage of incredible acting, skilful filming and a hair-raising soundtrack – this is cinematic terror at its very best and will leave you hungry for whatever in hell’s name Peele dreams up next.
By Jamie Morris