Jordan Peele’s macabre brilliance


“Us” launch poster

Lars Torres, Staff Reporter

Following the release of his film “Get Out” in 2017, Jordan Peele quickly established himself as an effective and highly proficient filmmaker in the realm of combining social commentary, horror, thriller elements and some underlying comedic aspects still simmering from his “Key & Peele” days.

Following his Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay on this film, many people were clamoring for a future film, a demand that was swiftly answered by his announcement of a new horror venture, “Us,” among other potential projects.  

There was a fear that Peele would suffer from the “sophomore film curse”—his follow-up would be a substantially lesser film than the debut. Thankfully, this has turned out not to be the case, and in some respects, “Us” is an improvement upon “Get Out.”

The film follows the Wilsons, a well-to-do middle-class family, consisting of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), who are planning a vacation at their beach house near Santa Cruz.

Adelaide has been plagued by nightmares and bad memories from her time in Santa Cruz as a child, swearing she saw an identical version of herself as a kid but is told to think nothing of it.

However, in swift fashion, a family of doppelgangers appears and attacks the Wilsons, who quickly realize that the family is a malevolent version of themselves (also played by the same actors).

The matriarch of this doppelganger family, Adelaide’s counterpart, speaks of more violence and chaos, leading the Wilsons to try and fight to survive for their very lives as they attempt to make it safely into the next day.

From a technical standpoint, the film is much more impressively shot. Peele and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis included subliminal messages and subtext that made every frame feel purposeful. There is always something to be on the lookout for, similar to their work together on “Get Out,” but with a more assured and experience connection for both.  

The cinematography can be quite exhilarating at times. Peele takes riskier choices and is also more certain in his directing choices of what to show and how to portray the characters and story. Writing-wise, while the story is less tight and focused than “Get Out,” the concept and the execution is significantly more ambitious and entertaining, and the story is more haunting and on the nose with the social commentary of the underprivileged and the cons of class hierarchy compared to issues of race.  

Acting-wise, Nyong’o, for me personally, is an early pick for a nomination for Best Actress, despite the usual prejudice against horror films (in spite of “Get Out’s” success). She plays her dual roles with gusto, emotional reverence, frightening clarity and crazed passion that makes it impossible to look away.  

Duke also does a great job playing the nebbish and comedic patriarch of the family, trying his best to make light of a horrifying situation and never letting the dire parts of this hellish nightmare get to him fully.

Both portrayals are strengthened by the child actors, who are also impressive in both of their roles—normal and doppelganger.

The music is phenomenal, gluing everything together wonderfully with a terrifying take on Luniz’s song “I Got 5 On It” and an overall oppressive and horrifying score by composer Michael Abels that evokes thoughts of horror and madness throughout the film.

Overall, “Us” is a more ambitious, perhaps messier follow-up to Peele’s wondrous debut, but it is no less entertaining. It is much more comedic and incredibly thrilling, while also excelling in cinematography and acting. The film ultimately proves to be yet another calling card for Peele’s promising career.

Film: “Us”

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Release Date: March 22

Rating: 5 out of 5