Us Review: Jordan Peele's New Film Confirms He's The New King Of Horror

His second horror film doesn't let up even for one second.
Universal

K E Y P O I N T S

  • Us is the second film from director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Jordan Peele
  • Jordan’s latest offering serves as the follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Get Out, which was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2018
  • The horror film tells the story of the Wilson family, whose idyllic family beach holiday takes a grisly turn when a group of frightening doppelgängers show up at their home uninvited to terrorise them
  • Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o leads the cast and is joined by her Black Panther co-star Winston Duke, alongside young actors Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, who play the pair’s children
  • Joining them in the supporting cast are The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss and comedy actor Tim Heidecker
  • Jordan Peele said in the lead-up to Us’ release: “I was drawn to this idea that we are our own worst enemy. That’s something we all know intrinsically, but it’s a truth we tend to bury.”

S N A P V E R D I C T

With a film as jam-packed and elaborate as Us, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin when writing about it. As Us is a horror film, the scares are probably a good place to start, and we’re glad to say that’s one area that Us more than delivers.

By now, you’ve probably watched – and been terrified by – its trailer, which introduces us to the Wilsons. The family’s trip to Santa Cruz turns into a nightmare with the sudden arrival of a creepy bunch of lookalikes, who show up with the specific intention of wreaking havoc. The tension teased during this trailer hangs over the film until its very last second, and there are plenty of moments scattered throughout that will have you jumping out of your seat, too.

But aside from the fast-scares and fair amount of gore that you’d associate with any horror film, the most unsettling aspect of Us is Lupita Nyong’o’s portrayal of her character’s dark doppelgänger, credited as Red but never actually referred to by name in the film.

Lupita – for whom Us, believe it or not, marks her first film in a lead role – is one of the two big stars of the film, switching between her characters effortlessly, to the point it’s easy to forget you’re only actually watching one actor at work on the rare occasions Adelaide and Red share the screen.

What’s not made clear in the trailer for Us is that Adelaide has in fact had experience with menacing dopppelgängers before, as a child, and Lupita portrays that dread brilliantly when it looks like her character is about to be faced with her past trauma.

As the strong matriarch of the Wilson family, you see in Lupita’s eyes that she’s torn between holding it together to protect her children and struggling to suppress a long-forgotten horror from her past.

Meanwhile, as Red, she gave us chills every time she was on screen, not just with her husky voice, but also her movements, specifically the jolting and animalistic gestures she uses to communicate with her family, none of whom appear to have the ability to speak aloud as she does.

The other big star of Us is actually Jordan Peele, for whom Us might only be his second feature-length film, but who has already carved out a unique directing style, first seen in Get Out, which now shines in Us.

Watching it in the cinema, there will be so many times you ask yourself “did that actually happen?” and “was that meant to be there?”, and the answer to both will be “yes”. Us is jam-packed with so many tiny, recurring details that only on a second or third viewing would you really begin to appreciate all of them.

In the opening few minutes alone, Jordan sets the scene and throws out all kinds of symbols and themes we should be looking out for throughout the film; among them owls, one very specific Bible verse, scissors, mirrors, rabbits and underground tunnels.

Some of their significance is explained by the end of the film, some require a quick Google search afterwards. And the rest? Well, the jury’s still out on them, but rather than our unanswered questions feeling unsatisfying or frustrated, they simply make you want to go back and watch it all again, a credit to Us’ director.

With just two films under his belt, it might feel a little premature to say it, but the sheer quality of Get Out and now Us are a sure sign that Jordan Peele is the new king of horror, not that he should confine himself to just one genre.

That said, a surprising element of Us is that even at its most unnerving, it maintains a sense of humour throughout. Winston Duke is set up as a hapless father figure in the trailer, which carries on in Us’ first act, which sees him eliciting an eye-roll from his daughter with his attempts at dabbing and putting on a totally transparent bravado as he tries to deal with his uninvited guests.

While you’d be forgiven for thinking that the arrival of the “Tethered” would mark the end of Us’ humour, this is actually far from the case. Admittedly, the laughs are as dark as it gets (the grisliest scene of the whole thing is set to the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations, before another comic mishap introduces NWA’s Fuck Tha Police), but they’re still prevalent throughout, and they provide a welcome break from the tension.

Anyone who loved Jordan Peele’s directorial debut will no doubt be hoping to get a social message out of follow-up Us. While there is definitely an underlying theme about our actions having consequences and the idea of “other”-ing marginalised communities, there is a little bit more digging before this comes across, unlike Get Out, which was a lot less ambiguous with its social commentary.

This would probably be our main critique of the film, and it’s only a small one, but considering how much of Us slaps you across the face (or perhaps “whacks you with a golf club” might be more fitting), it would have been nice for this important point about our culture to shine through a little brighter.

B E S T L I N E S

“If you wanna get crazy, we can get crazy."”

- Winston Duke as Gabe, not realising what he's inviting into his family's lives

“We’re Americans."”

- Red's chilling explanation as to who she is

“Dad, nobody wants the boat"”

- A moment of comic relief during one of Us' most tense scenes

T A K E H O M E M E S S A G E

Us is a treat for fans of horror, that does not let up for a single second. And just like in the film itself, there’s more going on underneath the surface than first appears.

T R A I L E R