It's been a little over two years since Jordan Peele re-energized the horror genre with the surprise box-office hit Get Out. Peele's directorial debut, produced for just under $5 million dollars by Blumhouse and his own Monkeypaw Productions, went on to gross over $250 million worldwide. 2019 sees the return of the writer/director with his sophomore effort, Us. This review is spoiler free.
Us stars Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) as Adelaide Wilson, a happily married mother of two on a family getaway to their vacation home near the coastal city of Santa Cruz, California. Winston Duke (Black Panther) is in tow as her easy-going husband Gabe, along with their two children - Zora, the snarky older sister (played by Shahadi Wright Joseph), and Jason, the reserved younger brother (Evan Alex). Upon their arrival, Gabe suggests an outing to the beach to meet up with their friends, the Tylers, who happen to be in town at the same time. Although Adelaide is hesitant, the family makes its way to an ocean-side amusement park.
If you've seen The Lost Boys, you will instantly recognize the Santa Cruz boardwalk as the fictitious beach town of Santa Carla, and while director Jordan Peele pays homage to the '80s cult classic, there are no vampires here for us to worry about this time around. Instead, Peele manages to turn a bright, sunny day at the beach into an ominous affair. The uncomfortable tension slowly builds from moment to moment, with clues being offered up like a trail of breadcrumbs through a forest. The Wilson's relaxing afternoon is cut short after Adelaide panics when she loses sight of her son Jason on the beach, and the group makes their way back home. Later that evening, as the family is getting ready to settle down for the night, they discover the presence of a mysterious group of people quietly standing motionless at the end of their driveway. And this is where the real terror begins.
With Jordan Peele's involvement in the up and coming Twilight Zone reboot, the Rod Serling and Richard Matheson influences found here should come as no surprise. The filmmaker appears to proudly wear his on his sleeve. Even though Us conjures up this sense of familiarity, Peele equates his love of what came before him with enough depth and originality to keep us wondering what's going to happen next. Visually, Us is a beautifully shot, Hitchcock-meets-Kubrick wonderland. It uses light and shadows to weave together a taut, psychological thriller that is both horrific and terrifying. As the characters travel further down the rabbit hole, the film further reveals its underlying themes of classism, materialism, and societal norms.
Much like the Giant Dipper Rollercoaster on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Us slowly takes you through a dark corridor, drops you at high speed, and thrusts you down a path of twists and turns, leaving you feeling lucky to just have survived. Jordan Peele, while an already accomplished writer, producer, and director, is slowly becoming a master of horror, with this movie solidifying him as a force to be reckoned with. Fans of the genre take note, just don't get too confortable - something you're not expecting may be right around the corner. Us comes to us from Universal Pictures.