- Jordan Peele’s “Us” is the follow-up to his hit 2017 movie, “Get Out.”
- It’s another creepy tale, but it’s very different than his first movie.
- Along with Peele showing off his incredible writing talents, the movie’s star Lupita Nyong’o gives a powerful performance, while the cinematography and score are top notch.
Jordan Peele is in a tough spot.
His directorial debut, “Get Out,” was not just a box-office hit that earned him a best original screenplay Oscar. It was also a movie that grabbed the cultural zeitgeist in the country. How the heck do you follow that up?
The answer: You go in another direction, which is just what Peele does with his sophomore effort, “Us” (in theaters Friday).
On the surface, it doesn’t look like that’s what Peele is doing. Trailers for “Us” look as creepy and socially conscious as “Get Out.” But I see “Us” as a straight-up horror movie, though some may find subtext of Peele commenting on civility and respecting your fellow man.
The movie focuses on the Wilson family – Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and Jason (Evan Alex) – as they travel out to their beach house near Santa Cruz, California. Though all seems right, going to Santa Cruz brings back a lot of unpleasant memories of Adelaide’s youth, especially an evening on the boardwalk when she came face-to-face with a girl who looked exactly like her. The traumatic event led to her being temporarily unable to speak and she spent many years trying to get over it through dance and other forms of expression.
Back in the movie’s present day, the Wilsons go to the beach in Santa Cruz to meet up with another family (the parents are played by Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) and besides Jason coming across a man dressed in red with blood dripping from his hand, all seems … okay?
But that evening the Wilsons are back at their beach house and things get really strange. Four figures dressed in red all holding hands are standing at the top of their driveway and it turns out they all look exactly like the Wilsons. Nothing is okay anymore.
“Us” is fast-paced, gory, and once more shows the writing talents of Peele. The movie is also filled with a lot more laughs than “Get Out,” with Duke’s Gabe character getting many of the best one-liners. Don’t get confused: You are not walking into a comedy, but sometimes the only way to enjoy a horror movie is to laugh once in a while.
The heart and soul of the movie is Nyong’o, who in playing two driven women (Adelaide and her double “Red,” who the actress gives a creepy raspy voice) shows an incredible amount of range.
And topping it all off are the cinematography and score. Michael Abels, who also scored “Get Out,” uses an orchestral sound to freak the heck out of you. And DP Mike Gioulakis (‘Glass,” “Split,” “It Follows”) gives some lush photography, and his use of light in some of the shots is so spot-on. It may be his best work to date.
With “Us,” Peele shows he is well aware that he has to keep the audience off balance. It’s the only way to counter their preconceived notions going into his movies. And it’s the only way he can stay true to his art.