By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
After impressing audiences and critics with his directorial debut Get Out, Jordan Peele is back with a new horror entry which was selected as the opening night film for this year’s SXSW Film Festival. Though I would hardly call his second feature indicative of a sophomore slump, I feel that Peele’s newest foray in the horror genre isn’t quite a grand slam. In Us, the talented writer/director commits fully to the horror genre and bewilders, shocks and entertains nearly as much as his previous movie. However, in attempting to baffle his audience, I feel that the Jordan gets a tad messy with some of the bizarre details.
Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) and husband Gabe (Winston Duke) take a vacation with their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). Though she once suffered a traumatic event at the location, Adelaide agrees to a trip to her parents’ beach house. At first, things go mostly well, but one particular night takes a turn for the bizarre. Their quiet, uneventful vacation gets disrupted when a family of violent dopplegangers attack them and threaten to take away all that they value.
Written and directed by Peele, Us may be a more ambitious movie than Get Out, and he definitely widens his scope. However, the story gets a bit too complex and strange for its own good. Still, I am rather impressed with how well Peele balances the horror and comedy without over playing either aspect. The movie does work as an allegory of the American dream and those in America who are not as fortunate. Unfortunately, the messiness lies in some of the questionable details.
Regardless of its shortcomings, Peele has made another gripping and disturbing thriller with another amazing cast. Lupita Nyong’o is tremendous as Adelaide and is also haunting as the doppleganger. Winston Duke offers much charm through his natural wit and comic timing. The movie also stars Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker as friends of the family. Both actors also bring much humor to their characters. Finally, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex perform exceptionally as the Wilson children, but really shine as the more disturbing doppelgangers.
The film made quite an impact on the audience at SXSW and though I was mostly pleased, I feel the movie lacks the inventiveness of Get Out. Nevertheless, Jordan Peele has made a solid follow up movie and and hasn’t exactly fallen from grace. Despite my issues with Us, I still feel that he is a gifted filmmaker with important things to say.