Director: Jordan Peele
Screenwriter: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex
Jordan Peele comes off his hugely successful debut film Get Out, the first horror film in ages to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and stepping up to the sophomore plate is Us, an apocalyptic cross between The Strangers and The Body Snatchers.
The Wilson family holiday to Santa Cruz turns into a nightmare as a family of doppelgangers turn their beach retreat into a bloodbath. The film brings Peele’s controlled vision of horror to haunting fruition as the film slowly draws us down into the underworld of our other selves, and leaves the viewer with eyes wide and holding its breath.
Almost every aspect of this film should be praised, and nothing more so than Lupita Nyong’o’s performances. All of the main characters double up as their counterparts, and they all perform their absolute socks off in both roles, but Nyong’o’s performances as both Adelaide and her evil twin, Red, are stellar. There’s not a moment when you don’t feel her fear and rage as Adelaide, or her wrathful insanity as Red. Every snip of scissors is timed perfectly, every slide across the floor just right. She pulls off the terrified mother and the unhinged antagonist flawlessly. This is her calling card. If she doesn’t get nominated for something, we need to rethink our awards system.
The most outstanding feature of this fantastic film is the score. It is absolutely breathtaking. It’s got a rustic, distinctly un-blockbustery sound to it, and is reminiscent of the Native American influenced score for The Shining. The pizzicato strings somehow lend something tribal to the music, and the film as a whole. Hearing a film have its own unique identity in the soundtrack is a wonderful breath of fresh air.
Jordan Peele’s direction is also sensational. He manages to make every shot seem natural, despite the obviously unnatural premise. Sometimes you watch a film and you realise the shot has been set up purely to display the cinematography, or to go for a cool transition of some kind. Peele manages to keep the camera hanging back so that nothing feels intrusive or forced. The violence is tasteful, the suspense kept taut, and the scares justified. Peele understands how horror is supposed to work. You forget that you’re watching a film. We ask for the film to transport us away from the cinema seat, and it does.
At the end of it all, Us is a startling vision by one of the new masters of the dark side of humanity. The performances fit the film, the script never threatens to go off on a tangent and always keeps everything together, while the twists and turns are justified, leaving a general feeling of satisfaction. With some of the abysmal mainstream horror films coming to the big screen at the moment, sometimes you dearly wish you could have left your seat having cared about the characters, wished for their safety, and come out of the other side of the gauntlet smiling. Thankfully, Us is here to show how it’s done.
Review by Kieran Judge
Follow him on Twitter: @KJudgeMental