November 2, 2019 – Writer-director Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) is a director who is too talented to remain in the horror genre, but he dresses up this genre again with his latest movie, “Us.” The film begins with an unsettling flashback, then fast-forwards to the present day, which seems kind of normal at first, but with sense of creepiness keeps increasing steadily.
That early part of the film is quite artistic, but once the initial reveal takes place, and the blood starts splattering, the absurdity of the plot plunges it back into a familiar kind of horror genre safety zone, which is only offset by a surprise twist at the end of the film. I was glad I did not have to pay to see this, but I then I am not a horror film fan.
As in his earlier film, “Get Out,” Peele hangs the more absurd elements of this story on a science fiction-like skeleton, but what it might really have needed are supernatural elements (like the “Cabin in the Woods” plot) because there is no real science in this fiction. Instead, it is based on pseudoscience.
The opening scenes involve a young girl wandering into a hall of mirrors in 1986 where she encounters her doppelgänger, an exact replica of herself to which she is somehow psychically “tethered.” At first, this seems to be an isolated incident, but it turns out to be an incident of supreme importance to many people. The young girl, Adelaide Thomas (played by Madison Curry as a child, Ashley McKoy as a teenager and by Lupita Nyong'o of “Black Panther” as an adult) is so traumatized by her hall of mirrors experience, she was unable to speak for some time.
As an adult, Adelaide Wilson seems very wary of strangers and keeps a sharp eye on her children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). When she tells her husband, Gabriel (Winston Duke of “Black Panther”) of her childhood experience with the doppelgänger in the hall of mirrors, he doesn't know how to respond. He tries in vain to cope with his wife's strange fear, seemingly without basis, that this same doppelgänger is going to come back to threaten her.
Gabriel suspects his wife's fears are largely in her imagination, but little does he know how much Adelaide knows about some very strange goings on, or at least how much she should know. Adelaide's fears become quite real when a spooky family shows up in the driveway of the Wilson's summer home. At first, they are only seen in silhouette, but they are revealed to be crazed, off-kilter copies of the Wilson family. They invade the house and it soon becomes clear the doppelgängers plan to kill the Wilsons and take their place, sort of. Only one of the doppelgängers can speak, and she is the Adelaide copy.
A drawn out battle occurs between the Wilsons and their evil copies. There are numerous creepy and deadly confrontations. We assume that this horror is confined to the remote summer home of the Wilsons, but it turns out to be a lot more widespread, making this quite similar to a zombie movie.
I found the premise of this story to be absurd and somewhat funny, but not really scary, which is fine by me. There is a nice twist at the end that makes it a bit more interesting, but the twist is not really all that surprising. To me, this kind of movie is more effective if it is more grounded in reality, or perhaps the supernatural, which would have made it easier for me to suspend my disbelief. Because of that, it seemed more unbelievable.
One amusing aspect of the movie is that part of the plot reminded me of famous Lewis Carroll stories. One sequence has Adelaide, in effect, going through a looking glass and following white rabbits down a hole, well, not really a hole, but a series of stairs and tunnels leading to a surrealistic subterranean city. Adelaide is no Alice, and what she ventures into is not a Wonderland, but I did wonder how such a wackadoodle place could possibly exist. Short answer: It can't.
As far as horror movies go, and they don't go very far, this is one of the good ones. Jordan Peele has once again shown his mastery as a filmmaker, and the actors are excellent in their dual roles (as themselves and their copies). This dizzying romp of a film is less relevant in its social observations than “Get Out” was, but perhaps more entertaining. I'm sure that horror film fans will like this more than I did. It rates a B.
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