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Us – Movie Review

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Us – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

Any setting can be made scary with the right execution and creativity and Jordan Peele seems intent with Us on adding a eeriness to the summer cottage. This is the kind of horror film unafraid of going in some crazy directions and Peele brings all sorts of ideas to the table in showing a family vacation gone twisted. Part of the enjoyment of Us is seeing this family dynamic at work and how each member of this unit attempts to thwart these evil forces. This is a brilliantly paced film with some clever filmmaking decisions allowing it to become an appropriately moody horror film.

The first act of Us plays mostly as a comedy, with Peele introducing us to the Wilson Family. Their personalities are properly defined and they make for a likeable, but still flawed, nuclear family. They are believable as people who have lived together for many years and are aware of their quirks. This creates the necessary tension for later on when their copies arrive on the scene. Their interactions are humourous, but Peele always make sure we’re aware something sinister is lurking in the shadows. He especially makes good use of their summer home, with the various books and board game sitting around untouched. When the copies eventually show up, Peele doesn’t waste any time in showing how they contrast.

Most importantly, Peele is light on exposition and uses the body language of these imposing figures to make us and the Wilsons uneasy. When the characters split up and face their clones, Peele and his editor Nicholas Monsour successfully bounce between the participants without ruining the movie’s flow. There’s never a point where the viewer is bored and wishes to return to one of the other family members. Each character is dealing with different conflicts during the whole ordeal and we get a good idea of what is racing through their minds. The stand-out, though, is Lupita Nyong’o. She gets the most screentime and does a brilliant job with the dual roles. She captures the Wilson matriarch’s fright and her twin’s glee wonderfully and that adds to the terror.

Even when the blood stains start emerging, Peele doesn’t remove the comedic bits and there are multiple laugh out loud moments, but never in a way that feels jarring. Aside from the main family, Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker also provide funny turns as another family heading down to the beach. The tone of Us is remarkably handled and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis presents some incredible trick photography with the locations he’s given. Most of the movie is set at night, but nothing is hard to make out. Finally, composer Michael Abels hits the necessary creepy chords, including a demonic theme sure to provide flashbacks to The Omen for some.

Us has a lot of ideas it wants to throw at the audience and Jordan Peele is able to create a compelling story with all of these creative avenues. By focusing on this family and having them go through their own individual arcs and decisions, he allows Us to remain exciting through the majority of its runtime. Peele’s direction is able to create tension out of multiple situations, but the attempts at comedy don’t feel out of place, either. One wonders how much of Us came out of his own family vacations and trying to find things to do in a different home away from home.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison