Break The Tether
Given the success of Get Out, it was always going to be difficult for Jordan Peele to follow up on its success with his next horror project. On the surface, Us’ story isn’t particularly original, following the home invasion narrative closely. It’s full of plot holes and illogical character decisions that feel plucked right from any other horror film. When you dive a little deeper under the surface however, there’s a myriad of interesting societal and thematic questions here that make Us much closer to an arthouse film than anticipated.
After a traumatic experience as a child, we cut to present day with the Wilson family packing up their things and going on vacation to Santa Cruz. As strange coincidences begin to overwhelm Mum Adelaide, this weirdness quickly turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers show up and begin to terrorize the family. From here, the film devolves into a home invasion plot which quickly escalates to include the entire country being attacked by doppelgängers.
Despite the story falling short, US does have a lot going for it. The acting in particular is brilliant, with the doppelgängers mirroring their behaviour and showing off the dark side of their personas perfectly. Stylistically, the film looks fantastic too. The choice of colour is excellent throughout and the various camera movements all feel slick and impressive. In particular, one rotating long shot early on when the family are being attacked is easily one of the best moments.
On the surface level, Us fails to really capture the right level of horror. Unlike Get Out, which just about managed to scrape through its tonal shifts, Us is inconsistent throughout the film and it ultimately offsets the tension. For every nerve-wracking moment and segment of horror, there’s an equal amount of comedy. Early on when the family are sat down opposite the doppelgängers there’s some real tension in the air. This unnerving moment is then shattered by a joke about a boat. It’s something that crops up numerous times through the film and feels more clumsily implemented than it should.
Numerous bouts of iconology, symbology and metaphors are made here and if you really start to deconstruct everything, Us is actually quite a profound film. There’s a lot of social commentary here around slavery, class, society and our subconscious suppression of our “dark side” that makes for quite thought provoking viewing. When you deconstruct the movie that way, Us is far more enjoyable and certainly worth multiple viewings.
Whether anyone will want to look beyond the surface level of the film and examine its themes more closely is up for debate. Going into this one expecting a straight forward horror, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed. The tonal shifts between horror and comedy don’t mesh well at all and the overall logic of the doppelgängers (and the family) shatters some of the allure with this one. Despite that, Us is an interesting and deeply thematic film, one that, at times, gets too wrapped up in its own themes that it forgets about the plot entirely.