Us ★★★★½

When the phrase ‘audiences aren’t going like to this’ is thrown around, it’s something that elicits groans. It reeks of the pretentious film student who saw one Tarkovsky movie and suddenly thinks he’s a film-literate genius. To be blunt, I have no idea how audiences as a whole will receive ‘Us’ but I can tell you that the nebulous and ill-defined group known as ‘film twitter’ probably isn’t going to be into this. Is it because they aren’t smart enough? Unwilling to engage? No. That’s stupid. It’s because for better or for worse, ‘Us’ is a unique experience that I can’t see everyone vibing with for a lot of reasons. But good news for me: I fucking LOVED it.

I’ll try to hold my tongue, because there’s definitely a lot to unpack here, but I think expectations and surprise are key to the experience here, and I don’t want to sully anyone’s. My hope after his excellent debut ‘Get Out’ was that Jordan Peele would be able to start to go off the rails a bit, as one of my only issues with Get Out is that it feels a bit bound to its convention, by the third act, the tensions and conflicts are resolved in ways that plenty of horror movies have already done. It worked because it was smartly put together, blunt and in your face with its message, and had great setup and payoff that worked in tandem with catharsis because of the excellent and identifiable lead character. Many of Peele’s hallmarks are here, and it’s a testament to his sense of style and film-literacy that he’s able to pronounce his signifiers so strongly. To substitute Daniel Kaluuyah’s excellent turn, we have Lupita Nyongo, competing for the title of ‘best horror movie mom ever’ in this, in a performance that is just a complex, nuanced, and empathetic as Kaluuyah. The rest of the cast does a stellar job as well, especially the notable dual performances that demand a lot from these actors. 

Like Get Out, Us is no stranger to blending its tones and shifting them like an expert card trick, one that shouldn’t work as well as it does, but with the line between ‘funny’ and ‘scary’ so strongly blurred from the outset, Us manages to be excellent at both without sacrificing either side. Special mention to Winston Duke who goes full ‘dad’ on our asses and is clearly having a fun time. And that’s the interesting thing about Us, it’s a fucking blast. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s both, and best of all: it’s always exciting. The first act feels suspiciously pedestrian and almost *too* by the numbers and cliched save for some stylistic flourishes, until the movie doubles down and suddenly makes you realize it was a whole lot more clever than you may have thought. But I won’t say too much here as to spoil the fun. I will say the story goes in directions I didn’t expect, and if you were fooled into thinking this movie is any less political than ‘Get Out’ then you are soooooo THUNDEROUSLY wrong, and so was I, so that was a lovely little surprise. The plot and direction turns into something way more ‘Wes Craven’ and ‘John Carpenter’ and ultimately morphs into this bizarre and unique experience that I can only describe as being ‘They Live’ meets ‘The People Under The Stairs’, where it becomes just as bizarre as that sounds, and about twice as fun. The tongue is FIRMLY planted in the cheek here, but never at the expense of scares and horror. And yeah, it’s weird, and it almost goes *too* far with some of its ideas, but thankfully the key word is ‘almost’ because it becomes JUST vague enough to be speculative, and JUST specific enough to feel tangible. It culminates in something I found to be emotionally resonant, clever, poignant, cathartic, and had me on the edge of my seat and wanting to cheer on the characters I was rooting for.

Is it perfect? I’m not sure about that, honestly. It could be. It could also be not quite as good the second go around, but it could also be even better. The great horror films are ones that you remember, and ones that become more fascinating and less scary when you revisit them. The more I think about ‘Us’ the more I like it, and he best part is that while a lot to unpack, the coda of the film is easy to understand. I cannot wait to see this again to undoubtedly refine my thoughts further, but this is one of the best horror movie theater experiences I’ve ever had. I cannot imagine most of my mutuals liking this even remotely as much as me, this is destined to have mixed reception and get lots of 5 or 6 out of 10’s, but I’m happy I don’t fall into that category. It’s like an elegant, extra long, extra fun episode of the Twilight Zone. Your mileage may very, but I LOVED Mr. Peele’s new nightmare, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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