According to director Jordan Peele, Us is about “the simple fact that we are our own worst enemies”. It follows his wildly popular and critically acclaimed Get Out.
The film stars Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson and Winston Duke as her husband Gabe. The couple and their two children are heading to Adelaide’s family lake house in Santa Cruz for a vacation.
The opening scenes are expertly cut with a chilling prologue that shows a young Adelaide in 1986 as she wanders off from her family at the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
Both the audience and Adelaide enter a “Hall of Mirrors” as she is confronted with a traumatising memory.
Now she is returning and the sense of foreboding is powerful. The family walks across the beach—their long shadows trailing behind them giving an idea of the horror to come.
A warped version of 1990s rap hit I Got 5 On It underpins the early scenes and cues in the horror.
“There’s a family in our drive,” says one of the children that night at their holiday home. Each of the Wilsons has a carbon copy.
The film descends into a home invasion horror. The doppelgangers—the “tethered”—attack their counterparts. They must “untether” themselves from their human doubles.
But what becomes more dreadful are the lengths each member of the Wilson family must go to as they individually confront their “tether” selves.
When asked what they are, Adelaide’s replica responds, in a ghostly croaky voice that is impossible to forget, “We’re Americans”.
The film deals with weighty themes of class, the American Dream and toxic masculinity.
Peele insists that it is “not about race”. But it is important that we see the events unfold through the eyes of a black family.
The theme of suburban paranoia takes on a different aspect as a result.
The performance by Nyong’o is a must-see, especially if you enjoyed her Oscar-winning turn in 12 Years a Slave.
Peele scatters humour throughout the film and it switches quickly from wide-eyed terror to guilty laughter.
He is clearly a horror fan—in almost every scene are small references to classics of the genre.
This is an ambitious commercial horror film that taps into politics as a source of terror.