Adelaide Thomas (Lupita Nyong’o) is a woman who has agreed at the insistence of her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) to return to her old cottage in Santa Cruz for a vacation with their daughter and son, Zora and Jason. The thing is, when she was six years old and her dad was playing Whack-a-Mole at the carnival and her mother had to excuse herself, she felt a presence that made her wander off into this cave of mirrors. To this day she’s haunted by the fact she saw not only herself in the mirrors, but someone who had her same hair, face, clothes and size, acting on her own. When strange coincidences end up happening as the vacation transpires, Adelaide gets more and more worked up, and one night a strange group of four, all wearing red, wander up to their house. The next thing they realize, the dad of this group is walking up to the door, the rest of them are encircling the house, and the police are fifteen minutes away. The group successfully breaks in to reveal they are all exact replicas of this same family. The only one who can talk, and only savagely lispy at best, is the copy of Adelaide, and she reveals they are the Tethered, copies of real people, copies who have been forced to live in the shadows their whole lives, whatever that means, and they’re now out to be untethered, starting with the Thomas family.
Jordan Peele’s two movies feel abnormally crazy - and makes them even scarier than they need to be as a result. Get Out managed to make fun of the robotic tendencies of white citizens to react and communicate with deviants, creating a funny-in-its-ridiculousness-but-not-ridiculously-funny and creepy atmosphere around the Armitage house. When the fan gets hit with s**t in this movie, we’re not quite sure when and if a knife will be swiped, nor when and if someone will drip blood. We’re scared because we’re anticipating, like a jump scare, if one of these copycats will do something even more demented than they already are and what hints there are of when we can expect it. For instance, Jason and his Tethered end up in the closet together, studying each other and Jason trying desperately not to provoke him(self). It also aims for laughs when a slaughter ends up occurring, dementedly spitting in the face of someone about to die, and it’s definitely memorable.
The movie at first looked to be set up the same way as Breaking In, a thriller from last year about another woman trying to protect her son and daughter from hostages that have put up their flag over her own domain. I was worried that would make it seem too familiar, but Peele impressively deviates, giving us just enough time in the house before it’s time to go rogue. It was perfectly chosen how long it would take to come up with a plan of attack and escape.
I’d say while this doesn’t have the same feeling of importance and societal relevance as Get Out that made us extremely care about the main protagonist in that film, Us settles more for adventure survival. Gabe having an injured leg and having to hobble very slowly throughout this movie makes the family have to plausibly slow down. Its humour of creepy smiles and back flips and a scare that ends up killing someone in a second flat is preposterous yet works.
Now for the inescapable criticisms I often like to leave till the end when I really have a soft spot for a movie.
A character’s head is apparently bashed on a boat motor, but I actually couldn’t tell how it happened. The fight choreography was very confusing. I also didn’t buy a kidnapping that occurs during the climax. I felt it was too easy and clean. It also cuts out a little bit too much of this early on-foot chase I was very interested in which could’ve let to even more terrifying scenes, and the ending was, while surprising, just a little too overly weird for me, like all those twists that end up dragging down an otherwise decent horror film; an ending that makes you have to reconsider and wonder if that actually makes sense. But Jordan Peele has once again managed to stamp his very own seal onto a personal craft, showing the horror genre is a good opportunity to share your art style and demented imagination.