After Jordan Peele’s successful GET OUT, he returned to write and direct another horror movie, US. While not as cutting as social commentary, US in my opinion is superior as a traditional horror film with a crazy apocalyptic bent–and social commentary if you want it.
The film opens with Adelaide, a young girl who wanders away from her father during a visit to a beach boardwalk. Entering a fun house, she chances upon a seemingly malevolent girl who looks exactly like her, which traumatizes her. Years later, she is married with two children, and all of them are going to the same beach, which fills her with anxiety as she recalls the trauma. That night, a family wearing red jumpsuits appears in their driveway, people who look exactly like Adelaide’s but turn out to be twisted, malevolent versions.
What follows is fairly traditional home invasion and survival horror, though with such a fresh take that even I–who honestly hates the home invasion subgenre–found myself loving it. Even so, it started to tire itself out fairly quickly until we visit friends of Adelaide’s family (headed by Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss), and we find out in the most titillating way possible the invasion is much bigger than a single family.
The main thing that worked for me was the great performances by the cast, notably Lupita Nyong’o as the adult Adelaide (and her doppelgänger) and Winston Duke as Gabe, her big teddy bear of a husband. All of the actors did an amazing job presenting their normal selves and their insane, murderous counterparts. The “tethered,” as they’re called, are the best part of the film, creepy as hell. As the normal folks, they’re all likeable and easy to root for.
I had some criticisms. The film is clunky, though it starts to smooth out as it gains steam. Mostly, what didn’t quite work for me was, well, the whole damn premise once it’s revealed. The explanation of the “tethered” defies any rationality, though it’s cool enough to be passable. The nice twist at the end doesn’t work as well as it could have as a result.
If you appreciated GET OUT’s social commentary on soft racism, there’s a message in US, though it’s not out front but more in the background. My interpretation is the message is about class, how we’re all the same, but difference in opportunity can produce very different lives.
Overall, as a horror film, I liked US. Peele keeps doing it his way, which brings new ideas to the genre and something different than the usual stuff.