Wandering through a beach fairground behind her squabbling parents, young Adelaide drifts off into a haunted house amusement ride. Once inside she is startled by a sudden power-cut and tries to flee its mirrored walls. However she is confronted by a chilling mirror reflection of herself and it is one that doesn’t move…
Fast forward to the present day and Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is returning to the same holiday resort with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke). Still bearing the emotional scars of her childhood trauma, she begrudgingly agrees to return to the same beach with Gabe and their two children, Jason and Zora. However her childhood anxieties soon return as their Jason disappears. Finding her errant son, the family make their excuses and leave the beach, returning home. However it seems as Adelaide’s nightmares are not over yet as a family of silhouettes gather in their driveway, all of which refuse to move.
... both a departure from Peele’s first feature and also a continuation.
After director Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’, the world has been keenly awaiting the next chapter in this self-confessed horror aficionado’s oeuvre and now it has arrived in ‘Us’. Partly inspired by the 1960’s television show ’The Twilight Zone’, this new feature returns audiences to a world where everything is not as it seems. Less horrific and more concerned with straight-up creepiness, ‘Us’ is both a departure from Peele’s first feature and also a continuation. Whilst it is too early to pin Peele’s movies down to a formulaic style there are still similarities that bind the two together.
As with Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as Chris in ‘Get Out’, ‘Us’ is anchored by another startlingly and mesmerising central performance with Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide. All fidgets and ticks, her transformation on screen is electric. Contorting both her voice and body, she dominates every frame she’s in. Creditably supported by Winston Duke as husband Gabriel (who brings the humour between the scares), Shahadi Wright Joseph as spiky daughter Zora and Evan Alex as her withdrawn son Jason, there’s quality running throughout the cast. Add to this the ever-incredible Elisabeth Moss as her self-indulgent neighbour Kitty and the acting bases are well and truly covered.
However when ‘Us’ shifts from its beginnings as a taut, domestic thriller towards more of a global pandemic, Peele’s second outing starts to run slowly aground as his world-building scuppers the drama. In a third act that focuses more on creating and qualifying concepts, ‘Us’s’ logic lurches towards the latter end of M. Knight Shyamalan’s filmography. With its late attempts to introduce rules to its universe, the conflict and characters that were so effective in the beginning, cease to bear any resemblance. Finally falling into the modern trope of a chilling reveal at its end, ‘Us’ sacrifices its initial claustrophobia for some shakily-assembled cause and effect.
So, whilst this might sound damning or faint of praise, compared to many modern horror movies ‘Us’ has still riveting performances that will keep you glued to the screen. Yes, its plot falls apart towards the end but if anything there is a surfeit of great ideas in this movie than a lack. It’s just that they don’t fit together in the same movie. With a much subtler and thinner political subtext than ‘Get Out’, ‘Us’ is a straight-up horror movie which changes its mind half way through and strains for a grand concept by its close.
Funny, irreverent and creepy, ‘Us’ is very much a Jordan Peele movie however it is one that just falls shy of ‘Get Out’s’ greatness. Over shadowed as result of its changing ambitions, ‘Us’ is still a highly entertaining evening which you’ll still enjoy, even if its haunted house starts to creek towards the end.
Husband and wife Gabe (Winston Duke) and Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) take their children to their beach house, hoping to spend time with friends. Their serenity soon turns to tension and chaos when a group of strangers (referred to as ‘The Tethered’) who look exactly like them arrive.3