Friday, March 22, 2019

Us ***1/2 (2019)

Us is weightier and scarier than Jordan Peele's debut film Get Out. With plot twists at every turn, Us is rife with sociological insight in the tradition of the great horror directors. But Peele is not all about allusions and retro horror, but more about reconfiguring the genre to suit the shaky reality of the 21st century. 

The story centers on an African-American family on vacation in Santa Cruz. Adelaide, the Mom played by Lupita Nyong'o, is hiding a traumatic memory from her past that's revealed in the film's prologue. Her gregarious husband Gabe (Winston Duke) is doing his best keep everyone in good spirits. Their 15 year old daughter Zora is more interested in her phone while younger son Jason appears to be slightly neurotic. 

On the beach they socialize with alcoholic and vapid couple Josh (Tim Heideckter) and Kitty (Elizabeth Moss) who have 15 year old twin daughters. Later that night a family appears at their door who appear to be their doubles. They are not friendly. 

From that point on the Us goes into full on horror. As we become aware of what's happening and its apocalyptic possibilities the metaphors grow richer and more unsettling. Peele includes gallows humor, kind of jokes that elicit nervous laughter. The blend of night time and day time horror is another nice touch. Playful Jaws references are everywhere in the first act, serving as a red herring. 

Us refuses to answer every question it raises, questions that grow more complex as the film unfolds. As social commentary, Us forces us to think about the invincible among us. The performances are excellent, especially since the eight principles are given dual roles. Great horror also impels us to question our reality or at least what we consider it to be,  creating turmoil in the mind on the walk out from the theater. The frightening mysteries of Us offer no easy answers.

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