Jordan Peele blew critics and audiences away with 2017’s “Get Out.” With such a strong directorial debut, many wondered what he would produce next? What kind of film could possibly follow up that masterpiece? Although there are sure to be many debates over which film is superior, “US” firmly establishes Jordan Peele as this generation’s maestro of horror.
I am going to bring calamity upon them, and they will not escape. Though they beg for mercy, I will not listen to their cries.
There are many clever, interesting, and unique things that happen in “US” but the less you know about the movie, the better the experience will be. (Making this a very difficult review to write!) Already a number of click-bait articles are popping up online: “What does this&this mean in US?” “The ending of US explained!” “237 things you missed in US!” Even Google’s auto-fill is suggesting “What is US about?” Avoid all of these prior to seeing the movie! You only need to know what was has been revealed in the trailer.
A family has met up with some friends while on a short vacation to Santa Cruz. Later, what appears to be a copy of the family appears at their door and begins to terrorize them. Why? Who are they? Why are they wearing that? What does it all mean? The experience of slowly understanding all of this, and whether you enjoy it on a basic horror level, or choose to peel back the layers of symbolism is what makes this movie such a masterpiece.
Similar to “Get Out” Jordan attacks with multiple fronts. He creates main characters that are very likable and easy to relate with. He then puts them into relatively normal situations that play on some of our core anxieties/fears. (Meeting your future in-laws. Visiting a place where you could be discriminated against. Losing track of your child. Keeping up with the Joneses. ) These fears are tempered with just the right amount of humor. Not the tone-deaf bathos seen in most Marvel films, but uncannily real reactions to bad situations that are only funny because you aren’t the person in that situation. On top of this, he drapes a heavy blanket of increasing dread. We are unable to predict who will survive by the time the credits roll, leaving us wondering how much worse things can get. All this, garnished with a healthy amount of blood, and it may seem these cinematic snacks are complete. But woven throughout the narratives, is a razor-sharp commentary on the American Culture.
Such ambitious story-telling wouldn’t be possible without a cast that could pull off everything that is asked of them. Not only do the four main characters have to portray a convincing family, but they also have to play their ghoulish doppelgangers as well. It’s incredible how well this is achieved, particularly with Lupita Nyong’o role(s). The excellent acting is coupled with an equally brilliant soundtrack, one that not only teases us with nostalgic tracks but then twists them into beautiful, nightmarish cues.
There are so many things that excel in the movie, that it makes a few, very minor blemishes stand out. It tends to overexplain itself a few times, starting with a couple lines of text that precedes the film. Once the movie ends, ask yourself the reason it was included? Did it add anything significant to your experience, or was it likely due to some producer’s notes, akin to the final scene of Psycho? Not everything needs an explanation, especially when so many metaphors are in play. Regardless, “US” is an exceptional film, that is just as funny as it is horrifying and will lodge itself into your brain long after you’ve left the theater’s darkness.