Us (USA, 2019)
Directed by Jordan Peele
After I saw Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In” (2008), I would joke that the message of the film was that the real vampire was the vampire within. That particular joke played not only upon the movie’s content, but on the type of Scandavian existential dread often found in the films of Ingmar Bergman. Due respect to Mr. Bergman’s vision of God as a hideous spider in “Through a Glass Darkly” (1961) or Mr. Alfredson’s star crossed vampire, there is a new existential nightmare in the cinema canon, the “tethered” in Jordan Peele’s “Us.”
Many great horror movies lull the audience into a sense of comfort. Peele certainly did that in 2017’s “Get Out.” Us isn’t one of those films. From the first frame, Peele brings the audience into a nightmare that doesn’t let up. There are lulls in the action, but nothing long enough to give anyone the type of familiarity or comfort that one might feel when watching Psycho (1960) for the first time. The viewer is allowed to catch their breath, but can never let go of that awful feeling that nothing is ever quite right.
To give away too many plot details of a suspense/thriller/horror film can inadvertently ruin the film. I won’t do that in a short, initial review. I can tell you that the cast is perfect, particularly, if Lupita Nyong’o isn’t a shoe-in for a Best Actress nod they should just cancel the Oscars next year. The score is one of the best I’ve heard, up there with Metropolis (1927), Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), and Fargo (1996). Michael Abels creates the perfect complimentary sound to Mike Gioulakis’ cinematography – eerie when it needs to be and epic when it needs to be.
After “Get Out” and its biting commentary on race relations in America, it wouldn’t be surprising if Peele created a companion piece. “Get Out” is a great film in its own right, but in some ways the two films couldn’t be more different. There are certain stylistic similarities, but “Get Out” satires monstrous elements of society, and overall, is a much funnier movie. “Us” has its moments of humor, but it is a nightmarish meditation on the nature of evil in general. In short, the monsters in”Get Out” were concrete, the monsters in “Us” are the wind.
Which one is more horrifying? It depends on your fears, and to some extent on your experience. I’m going to watch “Get Out” again this weekend and think about how to answer that myself.
(C) 2019 D.G. McCabe