I am not a fan of horror. Never have been. Truth be told I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat. Ever since the opening scene of Christopher Lee’s bloodshot eyes in 1970’s Taste The Blood Of Dracula and an episode called Man From The South in Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected, I have sworn off horror.
Even for a television lover such as myself, I have not watched even one episode of the critically acclaimed show, American Horror Story. It says horror in the title, no thanks. I have made exceptions a few times.
Anyone who reads my blogs knows I am a big Joss Whedon fan, if he is connected to a film, series or media of any kind, I’m in. So when I heard he had written a horror film, Cabin In The Woods. I watched it. I’m an adult, I can stomach a horror film. It was enjoyable hokum.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out snuck in under the radar. Never really billed as a horror film, it proved to be a runaway hit and a thoroughly entertaining watch. There are some who argue, with some justification, that Get Out is not really a horror film, though it did definitely have horror elements in it.
Peele’s latest effort is unmistakably in the horror genre. Us begins in 1986. A title screen tells us that North America is covered by a warren of long forgotten about tunnels. We are at a funfair with ten-year-old Adelaide Thomas (Madison Curry). It’s her birthday and her parents, Russell (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Rayne (Anna Diop) have taken her to the fair as part of the celebrations.
When Rayne goes to the toilets, leaving Russell to watch their daughter, Adelaide goes on walkabout. She ends up in a house of mirrors and sees something that she does not reveal when she is found some fifteen minutes later.
The doctors tell her parents that she is suffering from PTSD and that she should be encouraged to express herself through art. Fast forward to the present day and Adelaide – an excellent Lupita Nyongo’o – is grown up with a husband, Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and two children, a daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and a younger son, Jason (Evan Alex).
Gabe tells Adelaide about a trip the family is going to take to Santa Barbara, to see the funfair and go to the beach. Adelaide is understandably reluctant as it was the same place her traumatic event took place many years before. Gabe says that they have been invited by friends, Josh and Kitty Taylor (Tim Heidecker, Elizabeth Moss). Adelaide grudgingly agrees.
At the beach, a taciturn Adelaide sits with a chatty Kitty as their husbands sit a little away from them relaxing. The Taylors have twin teenage daughters, Lindsay and Becca (Noelle and Cali Sheldon) who exhibit the nonplussed, disinterest of teenagers. When Jason disappears from sight for awhile having gone to the toilets, it sends Adelaide into a panic.
Back at the holiday apartment, she tells Gabe of her youthful trauma and asks to leave. Before they can decide what to do, everything starts to go badly. The lights in the apartment go out – it is a horror film – and when they look out of the window they see four figures standing in the driveway.
Adelaide, who had already been on edge and whose uneasy had only increased with the power loss, goes into full-blown panic mode. Gabe, trying to assert some control over the situation, goes out to confront the figures. That goes badly and the shadowy figures attack the apartment and take the family captive.
The four figures turn out to be their doubles, exact replicas. They are all feral and only Red, Adelaide’s double, is capable of speech. They are all dressed in red jumpsuits and are all armed with large dressmaker’s scissors. Red tells Adelaide to secure herself to the coffee table. Not wanting her family to be harmed, Adelaide complies. Red tells Zora to run and then sends Umbrae, her double, after her.
Jason’s double, Pluto, goes with him to another part of the apartment and Gabe is fighting for his life against his doppelgänger, Abraham. When Jason outwits Pluto, Red goes to rescue him and the Wilsons escape.
They go to the Taylors apartment. Unfortunately, they find out that they are not the only ones with feral doubles. All the Taylors are dead and the Wilson clan, once again have to fight their way out of an apartment, this time against the Taylors doubles.
They take the Taylors SUV and hit the road. They encounter Umbrae, who is still out for blood. There is a brief altercation and she is killed. They keep driving and it is daylight now. They go back to their old apartment and find that their car has been set on fire. Pluto tries to trick them but, once again is outwitted by Jason, this time fatally.
Red grabs Jason and disappears into the house of mirrors. Adelaide pursues her and catches up with her. They fight and Adelaide kills and rescues Jason. The family drives to Mexico.
Peele’s follow up to Get Out is a classic horror. There are jump scares aplenty, an eerie and disconcerting soundscape and soundtrack, bloodletting galore with stabbing and cutting and the occasional bludgeoning. It covers all gore bases. The protagonist is truly terrifying and, given a little thought, haunting, as they represent every person in North America.
Nyongo’o’s star continues to rise and with Us, there is no chance of it waning. She is brilliant in her dual roles. As the only actor required to speak as both protagonist and antagonist, Nyongo’o separates the two characters in a vocal way that gives a nod to the, frankly obvious, twist that happens towards the end of the film.
That is not to say that the rest of the cast is poor, far from it. Winston Duke, whose scene-stealing turns as M’Baku in Black Panther brought him to prominence, is great as Gabe, the enthusiastic head of the family. Both Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex are good as the young siblings, with Evan given slightly more to do in his role, thus able to explore the character better.
Peele, once again, adds a little visual flair. He is not one for much camera wizardry, trusting the story to do the work of captivating the audience. There is, however, a very nice aerial shot as the family reaches the beach for the first time. The rest of the visual trickery is kept for tension inducing shots and jump scares.
Though, as I said in the opening paragraph, I am no fan of horror films and, as such, not wholly qualified to compare them, I do know a good film when I watch one. Us is a good film, it is not great and, in my opinion, not as good as Get Out.
Having said that, it is a much more linear film that Get Out and, at just under two hours in run time, worth a watch. Get out and see it.