Jordan Peele’s Us slashes any suspicions of a sophomore slump for the writer and director within its first ten minutes, and it only gets better from there. It’s whip smart, genuinely terrifying, surprisingly hilarious, and will easily end up among my favorite films of 2019, if not at the top of the list.
To avoid spoilers all I’ll reveal about Us’ plot is that it follows a family as they’re stalked by a group of doppelgangers, twisted, murderous doubles of themselves. As it moves along, Us begins to feel like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone (Peele obviously holds the classic series in high regard as a reboot that he’s producing premieres next month) but still something all its own. Bits of levity sneak in between some of the the movie’s most unsettling scenes, yet do nothing but give us a brief moment to breathe before switching back to total panic on a dime.
As the premise might suggest, the main cast portrays both versions of their characters, giving us two radically different takes on the same family. Lupita Nyong’o is undoubtedly the highlight here, with her protagonist Adelaide as a believable, desperate, yet badass heroine (similar to Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor of the Alien and Terminator franchises) and her devious “twin” Red is essentially the human embodiment of nightmare fuel. My skin crawled during each scene the scissor-wielding psychopath was onscreen.
Winston Duke is also fantastic as Adelaide’s husband Gabe, being one of Us’ biggest sources of humor. Despite how frightening the movie was, Duke’s performance is the second funniest I’ve seen in any film this year. His portrayal as Gabe’s double Abraham, the bruiser of the fiendish family is terrific too, and also manages to bring in a few laughs.
Shahadi Wright, while still excellent, is probably the weakest of the bunch in both her roles. Zora, Adelaide and Gabe’s daughter, has some fun moments throughout Us, but her doppleganger Umbrae doesn’t really stand out when compared to her fellow antagonists. She’s definitely scary, but easily the least interesting of the bunch.
Evan Alex’s portrayal of Jason, the son of Adelaide and Gabe, and Jason’s bestial copy Pluto are almost as great as Nyongo’s performances. Jason is slightly off even before things start getting crazy, and Pluto’s unnatural movements and sounds harken back to other horrors like The Grudge and Mama.
Adding to the performances is Us’ soundtrack. A few classic hip hop and rock songs along with new, eerie tracks match the intended mood and tone of the film masterfully. One thing’s for sure, I won’t be listening to anything from The Beach Boys in the near future…
Us’ pacing was impeccable too, as I was on the edge of my seat for the vast majority of the movie’s nearly two-hour runtime. I was constantly surprised by the story’s direction as well. Peele’s love of the genre and knowledge its tropes allowed him to turn Us into a breath of fresh air for scare junkies, subverting expectations time and time again while adding even more depth to the mystery behind the movie’s events, giving just enough of an explanation to leave us satisfied but craving even more.
Us is a masterpiece of horror that surpasses Get Out, a film I already absolutely love, and cements Jordan Peele as one of my favorite writers and directors currently working. I’m doubtful we’ll get an Us sequel or spin-off from Peele anytime soon, but I can’t wait to see what great terror he brings into the world next.