Opening with the Bible scripture Jeremiah 11:11, which reads “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them” in the King James Version, and informing the audience that underground tunnels were built across America for experiments long since abandoned, US gives a fair warning to the audience that we’re about to journey into a disastrous situation of biblical proportions. And once the main characters are faced with the beginning of the aforementioned the thrills do not let up.
In “Us,” the Wilson family – wife Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) – are vacationing along the Northern California coastline, with plans to meet up with friends Kitty and Josh Tyler (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) and their twins Becky and Lindsey (Cali and Noelle Sheldon). What seems like the perfect “American” getaway quickly escalates into confrontations with doppelgängers that not only forces the Wilsons to face creepy versions (masterfully portrayed by each cast member) of themselves, but the audience to confront how and whom we perceive to be “other.”
Writer/producer/director Jordan Peele began work on this follow-up to his horror hit “Get Out” while the aforementioned was yet completed. Coming from his fascination with doppelgänger lore Peele stated,
“I love doppelgänger mythologies and the movies that have dealt with them, and I wanted to make my offering to that pantheon of ‘evil-double’ films. I was drawn to this idea that we are our own worst enemy. That’s something we all know intrinsically, but it’s a truth we tend to bury. We blame the outsider, we blame ‘the other.’ In this movie, the monster has our faces.”
Short of giving any major spoilers – because this is definitely one that can be easily ruined with too much info – I will say that three days after screening the film I am still unpacking it and contemplating what certain elements meant.
The number 11:11 shows up several times in the film, and I think Peele was genius to use a repdigit (repeated) number and one associated with a scripture that comes from a book in which God is punishing people – who have been exiled for worshiping false gods instead of the one true God. Throughout the movie the audience is confronted with doubles – twins, mirrors and the doppelgängers for example – true and false images that force you think about how you’re interpreting what’s happening on the screen.
Although I figured out a major part of the twist, I didn’t figure out one of the characters reaction to it – which has sat with me since I’ve viewed. And the questions – there were several where I felt the need to fill in or rely on my suspension of disbelief – I left the theater with were actually fun to contemplate afterwards and major factors in me wanting to see this a second time in theaters.
More thriller than horror, with plenty of gore, US is a fitting follow-up to “Get Out” that, unlike its predecessor, forces its audience to not focus mostly on racial implications but makes everyone watching face the looking-glass to see his or her own reflection in this US (United States – pun intended) society/culture that we’ve created. And although I originally left the theater thinking it was 3.5 beats on the MMTrometer, I can’t deny how wicked Peele’s mind is (intelligence and horror wise), how he has me in serious thought days later, and am upping that rating to a solid 4 beats. Jordan Peele is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the genre.
“Us” is open now in theaters nationwide.
Until next thought, Thomasena