A Movie Review: Us
Jordan Peele’s “Us” begins in California in 1986. A curious young girl wanders away from her parents
and into an eerie carnival funhouse at a Santa Cruz boardwalk. After traveling through a hall of mirrors,
she is shocked to encounter a girl who looks exactly like her. The story then flashes forward to the
present day, with the now grown Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) returning to Santa Cruz with her
husband Gabe (Winston Duke), their daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and son Jason (Evan Alex).
The family plans to spend the weekend relaxing at their beach house and hanging out with their friends,
the Tylers: Kitty (Elizabeth Moss from “The Handmaid’s Tale”), her smarmy husband Josh (Tim
Heidecker), and their teenage twin daughters Becca and Lyndsey (Cali and Noelle Sheldon). Adelaide,
who is still traumatized by her bizarre childhood experience, confides to her husband that she is nervous
about the trip.
After spending the day at the beach with the Tylers, the Wilsons return home for what they hope will be
relaxing evening. Overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom, Adelaide insists to Gabe that they
should leave Santa Cruz immediately. Their argument is interrupted when four people wearing red
jumpsuits and brandishing weapons suddenly appear in their driveway. The Wilsons are horrified to
discover that their unexpected and unwelcome guests look exactly like them.
Their mysterious foes viciously break into their home and the Wilsons are subjected to a horrifying
evening at the hands of their doppelgangers. The malicious clones are led by Adelaide’s double Red,
who is the most intelligent and formidable member of the group. Gabe’s doppelganger Abraham is a
hulking, dim-witted grunt who reminded me of Frankenstein’s monster. Zora’s clone is a cocky and
demented girl named Umbrae. Jason’s doppelganger is a hideously burned freak named Pluto who
spends most of his screen time wearing a mask (probably to limit the number of scenes that the young
actor would have to wear makeup).
Red, who is the only doppelganger capable of speech, tells Adelaide that they come from a bleak
underground world where the “Tethered”, are forced to mimic the actions of their above-world
counterparts. After countless years of languishing in abject misery, they have risen to wreak havoc. At
first, the Tethered seem focused merely on tormenting the Wilsons, but it turns out that their vengeful
plan is far more ambitious than that.
It’s not often that an actress is given the chance to play both a heroine and a villain in the same movie.
Lupita Nyong’o makes the most of her opportunity. Her eerie and menacing performance makes Red
one of the most memorable horror movie characters of recent years. Red’s raspy voice and creepy dead-
eyed stare are the stuff of nightmares. Winston Duke gives an entertaining performance as Gabe. His
valiant but bumbling attempts to protect his family provide the film with some much-needed comic
relief. Elizabeth Moss doesn’t get much screen time, but she gives a memorable performance in a darkly
comic sequence in the middle of the film.
Jordan Peele has quickly become a rising star in the horror genre. He has now made two films that have
achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success. Peele keeps the audience off balance by varying
the amount of gore he is willing to convey from scene to scene. Some shots are framed so that the
audience is spared the full extent of the bloodshed, while in others, the carnage is on full display.
“Us” will inevitably be compared to Peele’s previous film, “Get Out”. Both films effectively mix humor
with horror, but there are significant differences between them. Unlike its predecessor, “Us” is not an
overtly political film. It is not without political subtext, however. The Tethered may be intended to
represent society’s marginalized groups. There are real-life cases of homeless people creating makeshift
homes inside abandoned underground tunnels, living anonymous lives while countless people walk the
streets above them. This parallels how most of the characters in “Us” are oblivious to the Tethered’s
existence – and how their ignorance comes back to haunt them.
The film concludes with a clever, if not entirely unexpected, Twilight Zone-style twist that turns the
narrative of the film upside down and resolves some unexplained aspects of the plot. I wouldn’t dream
of revealing the twist, of course, but suffice to say that viewers will have a fundamentally different
perspective on the film during subsequent viewings.
“Us” is an unusual and sometimes downright bizarre film. If you’re looking for a movie that is 100%
logical or realistic, you won’t find it here, but “Us” isn’t meant to be taken literally. It can be viewed as a
parable about classicism or simply enjoyed as a fun and creepy rollercoaster ride. Jordan Peele has now
created two films that have legitimate chances to be remembered as horror classics.