“They look exactly like us. They think like us. They know where we are. We need to move and keep moving. They won’t stop until they kill us… or we kill them.” Us, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is horror. Peele broke onto the horror scene in his directorial debut with Get Out in 2017. A horror movie that broke the mold and had a whole lot of social commentary. Now with his second horror film, Peele is exploring more terrifying elements for the silver screen. Us is about a family of four, The Wilsons, who are going on their family vacation to the childhood home of the matriarch, Adelaide. From the get, the tension is intense. So intense that you have to remind yourself to breathe any time that there is a lull. This article is going to explore, without spoilers, just how scary Us is, and whether it lives up to the hype that has been building due to the success of Get Out. So strap yourself in, because this is one crazy ride.
“They Look Exactly Like Us”
The main plot line that was revealed in the trailers leading up to the release of Us showed that the Wilson family was going to meet their mirror images. Mirror images with nefarious intentions. Dressed in red jumpsuits, the four impostors come to Adelaide’s childhood home, targeting the family with hostile zeal. You’ve most likely heard before that you are your own worst enemy, and in Us that is exactly the case, as each member of the family comes face to face with someone who looks exactly like them.
This is scary just in theory. What do you do when you find your doppelganger? The very idea that (aside from having a long lost twin) you are looking at someone who looks exactly like you sends a shiver up your spine. Then it gets taken a step further. Your doppelganger has found you, and wants to kill you. The basic premise of Us is terrifying in its own right. And Jordan Peele delivers. As seen from the trailer, the family comes face to face with their doubles, and the actors are so good, that you can see the fear that they are experiencing in the moment. From the shocked, uncomprehending face of Gabe (Winston Duke), to the speechless Jason (Evan Alex), to the tear streaked face of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o). Doppelgangers that come to be known as the “Tethered”.
The doppelgangers make their murderous intentions apparent from the first meeting, and the audience is left on the edge of their seat to see whether the real family is going to even make it out of their own house alive. Us balances the jump scares, the tension, and the gore in such a way that you are always unsure what is going to happen next, and whether the Wilsons are going to escape their doppelgangers.
One of the best parts about the film is the actors, especially Lupita Nyong’o. Throughout the film you can feel the fear of the real family as the face their doppelgangers. And the doppelgangers themselves are terrifying in their own right. Nyong’o’s doppelganger has soul-piercing eyes, Duke’s is a hulking brute, Alex’s has an unsettling mask on a animalistic young boy, and Shahadi Wright Joseph’s has a bone-chilling smile. Each is horrifying in their own right, and they are each reflected with what feels like real horror and fear from their real selves.
“They Think Like Us”
Jordan Peele had a very particular vision for Us. In order to prepare the actors for his vision, he gave them prep work. Peele asked his actors to watch a list of classic horror movies so that they would understand the vibe that he was going for. The list included films such as The Shining, It Follows, The Birds, Let The Right One In, and It Follows. The tone of Us definitely fits with the unsettling tones of those movies.
Us was inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone, which makes sense as Jordan Peele is set to direct an upcoming reboot of the franchise. Aptly titled “Mirror Image”, the episode from the first season, follows a woman who encounters her doppelganger at a bus stop and becomes convinced that the doppelganger is trying to replace her.
Peele wanted to set Us in with the great anthology of horror movies by rooting the “Tethered” in their own monster mythology. Us is far more than a light watch, as it explores deeper themes and the monsters that are antagonizing the Wilsons. Much like Get Out there are several twists and turns that make the audience think more deeply about the messages of the movie, and it allows for Peele to tell a more complete story about what is occurring as the “Tethered” make their presence known.
Living Up To The Hype
Get Out had unprecedented success. As a new director, Peele delivered a film that was critically acclaimed, netting four Academy Award nominations and winning “Best Original Screenplay”. The audiences loved Get Out as well, as the box office exploded when it hit theaters. Having been so successful on his first directorial entry, we were led to expect much of the same from Us.
Us netted a ten-day $128.2 million in the box office, which is very impressive considering the $20 million budget that Peele had to work with. This sets Us right along with It, which had a $123 million launch. The trajectory places Us at $191 million, which could push it over A Quiet Place‘s $189 million, and would make Us the biggest wholly original live-action film since Gravity ($274 million). And Us is going to pass Hidden Figures ($169 million) and Crazy Rich Asians ($174 million) to make it the biggest domestic earner ever for a movie starring a woman of color.
While Get Out‘s success was very unexpected, audiences expected great things to come from Us. While Us may not have as great of a story-line as Get Out, it shares with it’s wholly original screenplay, and boasts superb acting from the leads. What it lacks for in story, Us surely makes up for in horror, gore, and tension, and will surely go down as a great horror movie.
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