With 2017’s Get Out, Jordan Peele confidently announced his aim to be amongst the best horror directors of all time. We all know the story from there: hype started immediately and never died down, and Peele got a well-deserved screenplay Oscar and gained his current status as one of the biggest names in filmmaking. But in this business, the sophomore slump is always a dreaded hurdle for new directors.
Not only does Peele completely dodge this obstacle with Us, he cements his name in the horror hall of fame by building upon the stylistic and thematic foundations he formed with Get Out, further establish his voice as an auteur.
A critical eye can identify story elements and tropes that cross over from Get Outto Us, but they’re used for entirely different purposes. Rather than feeling repetitive, they form a signature style to Peele’s storytelling. There’s the gripping opening, followed by a long, instantly iconic opening credits sequence, and then a slow build to sheer chaos, full of perfectly foreshadowed twists and turns. Whether or not you see them coming, you’ll love the ride you’re taken on. The feeling of tension is expertly woven, so thick you could cut it with a pair of big, shiny gold scissors. Unlike the crimson-clad villains, though, Peele’s shears are the brief moments of dark humor that reset the momentum with incredible precision.
And speaking of remarkable work, it would be foolish to go another moment without mentioning the dual performance by Lupita Nyong’o. Even though making this kind of statement is almost guaranteed to earn a few eyerolls, the gauntlet has absolutely already been thrown down in the race for Best Actress at the 2020 Oscars. Nyong’o is the backbone of Usas the emotional core of both the good and evil sides of this story. The instant she appears as the mysterious red villain of the piece, she commands attention and dials the thrills to eleven. The whole film hinges on the carefully calculated characters she plays and their horrific relationship.
Complementing her performance are the supporting cast. Winston Duke brings corny Dad energy that instantly lightens things up from an ominous opening. The kids serve a similar purpose to the story, as they both heighten the stakes of the crisis and bring moments of humor when they’re most necessary.
It’s hard to go too in depth without spoiling many of the best parts of the film. There’s a lot to unpack about the ideas within Us. There’s so much thematic complexity that I’m certain film professionals and academics will be unpacking it for years. And if the potential of a million different readings and interpretations wasn’t enough to earn infinite rewatches, the movie is damn entertaining. Peele has made another instant classic in the horror genre that many future generations will cherish.