Jordan Peele horrifies ‘Us’ again

Illustration by Lindsay Lang

By Kevin Lazzaro, Multimedia Journalist.

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut “Get Out” received some of the highest ratings of any horror movie in history, currently resting at the number one horror movie on Rotten Tomatoes. It even raked in an academy award for the new director. Fans of the film and Peele’s directorial style have been eagerly awaiting a follow up to the universally lauded “Get Out”. Their patience was rewarded with his newest film “Us.” However, does it stack up to the glory of “Get Out”?

Yes and no.

I learned from this movie that: if I’m watching a Horror film directed by Jordan Peele, I will not leave the theater disappointed with my experience.

However, the premise of “Us” rides entirely on the evil twin trope. This trope is not something new. It usually leaves a bland taste in my mouth whenever I see it used in a sci-fi or a horror film. Honestly, I was not very excited when I found out this was the premise of his new film.

Although “Us” does something that I appreciate; the main characters are made immediately aware of the issues that they are being faced with, instead of being blatantly ignorant to propel the plot forward, like other adaptations. There is never a cliche “‘Shoot him! He’s the imposter!’ ‘No, shoot him! He’s the imposter!’ moment in the movie. The evil twin and original characters are two distinct characters and it is never a question as to otherwise.

The film retains some of Peele’s stylistic choices from “Get Out.” There are some of the same tonal and directorial elements, such as brief comedic lapses in the middle of the plot and somewhat self aware comments, in acknowledging that there is a horrifying event happening to them, but it is defeatable/human. The film uses a fairly consistent high contrast between light and dark on screen which gives the film a creepy/dark look exemplifying the prolonged dread. There are also several moments where there is a juxtaposition with happy music over eerie events, sometimes used for comedic effect and sometimes to build tension.

The use of powerful overarching metaphors and symbolism for issues in America is still present in his work. I’ll only delve into a couple because there is so much to unpack. For example the scissors that are used by the clones are perfectly symmetrical, which is great irony; they’re severing the ties of symmetry to their original counterparts with symmetry. There is also the use of symmetry in general throughout the beginning of the film, such as frisbees landing perfectly in line with dots on a towel and noting that the time on the clock is 11:11, foreshadowing events to come. Definitely go into the theater with an open analytical mind, if your goal is to decipher Peele’s message to the viewers.

Another large highlight of the film was on screen performances. The execution from every actor and actress was phenomenal. Each actor gives a convincing portrayal depicting the contrasting personalities of the original characters and their clones. The best performances came from the film’s leading actors Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke.

Nyong’o gave one of the single greatest horror lead performances that I’ve ever seen. She played the part of an overprotective mother so well, the love that she had for her on screen children was palpable. Nyong’o also played a horrifying antagonistic character as well. The unhinged/tortured nature of the clone version of her character was so compelling it created shutters as I was watching her actions on screen. Whenever she moved it was so erratic and unpredictable, it added another layer to the uneasiness of the film.

Duke portrays the stereotypical dad. He does this with his various mannerisms and dad jokes that are scattered throughout the film. Duke is the comedic light in an otherwise dark film. He also plays a strong contrasting performance as the clone version of himself as a speechless, brutish character. Even though the clone isn’t in all of the film he does create a terrifying, looming presence when he is in it.

I was not disappointed in this film’s presentation of the content in the slightest. The acting was extraordinary, to say the least, paired with the fact that Jordan Peele is a true visionary, when it comes to filmmaking, both making this film one of the greatest recent horror films. The only aspect that I’m disappointed in is the unoriginal evil-twin premise. I want to see Jordan Peele spread his wings and produce a truly original work, instead of using a rehashed story that is well worn out. Though, no matter what his next work is, whether it be television or film, it will be fantastic. I can say this without a doubt in my mind.

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