By Nadira Begum
The “sophomore jinx” does not apply to Jordan Peele. With his new release, Us, Peele has managed to create a horror film as beautifully crafted and critically acclaimed as his directorial debut Get Out.
Us follows a family of four, the Wilsons, whose holiday is disrupted by a family who look identical to them. The doppelgängers, referred to in the film as the ‘Tethered’, spend the rest of the film hunting down and terrorising the Wilsons, unravelling a deeper and terrifying truth about the world in which they live.
The film quickly broke the record for the highest grossing opening weekend for an original horror, and for good reason. As with Get Out, Peele masks deeper social commentary on the state of modern America under the guise of a bone-chilling horror. Where Get Out focused on race divisions, Us incorporates class systems and hierarchy into the discussion. The Tethered have been trapped somewhere below ground (“they say they came from the sewers,” notes one news reporter in the film), perhaps representing the labouring classes of the U.S. In fact, the film is so intricately layered that even its title has caused debate amongst movie-goers – is it ‘Us’ or is it ‘U.S.’? Perhaps it’s both.
The success of the film is in part due to the phenomenal acting, especially that of leading actress Lupita Nyong’o. Nyong’o embodies both terrified mother Adelaide and her murderous Tethered counterpart, Red, and somehow manages to evoke equal amounts of empathy and fear in both roles. The duality of her performance, coupled with an unnerving score, make for a terrifying piece to behold.
Jordan Peele has once again created a film that lingers long after its closing shot. Despite the denouement being heavy on exposition, Us will leave its audience feeling as unnerved as they did when the horror began. Viewers will find themselves continually pondering over the significance of rabbits and Jeremiah 11:11, and perhaps Peele’s greatest feat is being able to create a conclusion out of these unanswered questions that is far from unsatisfying.
If a filmmaker’s aim is to encourage their audience to actively engage with their work, then Jordan Peele has most certainly established himself as a filmmaker for the ages.