‘Us’ terrifies with game changing plot and creative scares

Parker Otto

Two years ago it seemed preposterous that comedy actor Jordan Peele would be writing, producing and directing a horror film. The scenario sounds similar to when Jerry Lewis made a Holocaust drama in 1972 (Thank God that was never released). Despite the doubt surrounding him, Jordan Peele managed to craft one of the best horror films of the decade with “Get Out” which won many awards including an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. In 2019, Peele returns to the plate with “Us” and hits home with the best film of the entire year.

The film’s plot sees a family of four go to a house for summer vacation. Their plans are cut short when a family of doppelgangers break into their house and proceed to torment the family. Relying only on their wits and each other, the family must fight or die as they battle those that look and think like them.

The idea of having an “evil double” has been done many times in film both on a psychological and physical level. However, instead of having them simply come from the future or another dimension, Jordan Peele’s screenplay crafts an interesting backstory for the villains. At times, it is easy to sympathize with the people that are supposed to be the bad guys. However, their methods are still unforgivable. For audience members who see the film, stay away from scissors. Their use in the film might discourage any arts and crafts which involve the bladed tools for a few weeks.

Lupita Nyong’o is fantastic as the mother of the family who struggles with a past trauma which, of course, relates to the main plot. The entire family has to play dual roles as both themselves and the twisted doppelgangers and their acting is fantastic as the audience both loves and hates them, depending on the role.

Winston Duke is immediately likeable as the father who has several funny lines sprinkled throughout the narrative. Being a comedian, it makes sense for Jordan Peele to use humor in his screenplays and in “Us” the humor is a nice breath of fresh air before more scares occur.

The brother and sister, played by Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph, also stand out as child versions of Ash from the “Evil Dead” franchise. When their lives are threatened, they don’t just stand around and act scared but rather take up whatever weapons they have and prepare to kick some identical butt.

Horror’s number one problem today is that many horror films don’t have characters that the viewer will want to see make it out alive. Luckily, that problem is nonexistent in this film with a likable cast. The interaction between the family is both lifelike and a pleasure to watch. Even though they only spent a few months together on set, these actors feel like a real family especially Nyong’o and Duke who previously worked together as Nakia and M’Baku in “Black Panther.”

The film is very much like “The Shining” for three core reasons. One, it has a consistently scary atmosphere. The film screams scary from the opening shot. While the viewer can’t put their finger on it, something is not quite right in this world. This is due mainly to the cinematography, which sees lots of point of view shots, the dark lighting with only a few light sources and the score by Michael Abels. Abels’ score is of absolute terror and it doesn’t change tone rapidly to produce scare but rather builds up the horror of the scene. The score alone should propel the film to next year’s Academy Awards.

The film also resembles “The Shining”  in the hidden meanings throughout the film. “Us” has all sorts of commentary and puzzle pieces sewn into the fabric of the film. One of these is Jeremiah 11:11 which foreshadows future events. A Bible verse, it reads “Therefore thus said the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil on them, which they shall not be able to escape.”

Finally, the film is similar to “The Shining” because of how the film can be analyzed. This is a film that will probably be taught in film appreciation courses and there will be books written on its transformation of horror as a genre. This film deserves all of the attention it has been getting and more.

If “Get Out” and “Us” have proven anything, it’s that Jordan Peele is a genius director. He is frontrunning the new generation of directors. The new Kubricks and Spielbergs. “Us” is not only one of the best horror films of the year, but it might be considered one of the best of all time because of how much it challenges the audience while entertaining them also.