At this time of year, I'm astonished at such a good film, Us. But then, Silence of the Lambs came out at this time as well.
Director: Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Winston Duke (Black Panther)
Runtime: I hr 56 min
By: John DeSando
“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.” Adelaide (Madison Curry)
You thought Jordan Peele’s Get Out was a smart person’s horror film; well his Us is even better because the intelligent themes are there, but the horror elements are amped up, quite reasonably I’d have to say. A sweet family is terrorized by its doppelgangers, who seem to represent the dark side of themselves and humanity. Hello, Rod Serling.
The thrills are more than the usual horror tropes like jump scares and scary rooms. Each character must face his twin and fight it as if his life depended on it, and it does. When the opening scene has young Adelaide strolling away from her parents at the Santa Cruz beach into a fun-house hall of mirrors, you know she will face her twin, Young Red, and be forever changed for that brief 15 minutes.
Writer Peele lets the growing family prosper slowly until the twin family arrives, when baseball bats and fireplace pokers can do only so much to dispel those creatures. One of the nice touches is that the good guys can be effective against the home invaders but only with cunning and a ton of courage. As with most of this genre, no creature dies easily or quickly.
If like me, you take your horror lite, in Us is plenty of small asides that give a chuckle and also add to the suspense. When dad (Winston Duke, physically resembling Tyler Perry and Jordan Peele and therefore likeable if not at times schlubby), comments that mom has just left the car, the dark humor is that she’s left to find one of the twins and armed only with the now iconic scissors. We want to tell her not to go there alone because we know the tradition of a loner going into a forest.
As for star of Us, mom Adelaide/Red (Lupita Nyong’o) kicks butt most of the time because dad is debilitated, and women in general are more apt to take over these days. See this excellent film at a time of year when we could have expected less.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com