Having viewed Jordan Peele’s debut, Get Out, Us didn’t only intrigue me a little. The concept of doppelganger terror seemed very novel and they had a slew of talented actors to pull it off. My friend found the horror show ‘too intense’ for him, so I invited Dave instead, who doesn’t mind a few chopped livers. This was the nearly the second week of screening, and I was alerted on the picture’s massive box office haul. Us had grossed over $70 million during its American opening weekend, the biggest intake for an original horror production. Aside from this, it held a Certified Fresh score well over 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which was above and beyond Captain Marvel’s 78 percent.
This all pointed to a riveting watch and the film did not disappoint. The movie goes retro, with an 80’s opening scene complete with an old school TV and Hands across America. We are teleported to an oldie circus where young Adelaide wanders off. In a house of mirrors, she meets her splitting image. We would later learn that she refuses to communicate with her parents for weeks since this incident. They even seek help from the counsellor in an attempt to get her to open up.
Fast forward to the present and Adelaide is now a mother of two. She has a loving husband, caring friends, and they all head to their beach house for a well-deserved vacay. They each have their own way of chillaxing on the sea change. Her daughter Zora is on her earphones. Her son Jason runs around the house. Gabe, her spouse, tinkers with a boat. They seem like the perfect family…until trouble sets in.
The Wilsons 2.0
One night a family of four bearing an uncanny resemblance to their own, turns up in their driveway. Things turn ugly and they become their prisoners. They keep asking why? Red, Adelaide’s doppelganger, starts speaking in her husky, halting tone. We would learn that she has SD, a neurological condition that’s more prevalent than we think. Lupita, the lead actress, has been criticised and maligned for ‘demonising the illness’. In the movie, we are witness to a spurned woman, someone who hates her mirror image because she is everything she isn’t. Smart, happy, with a good, picture-perfect family, she wants what they have. She builds her own circle: a son, a daughter, a better half, but the experiment crashes before it even takes flight. Instead of a loving circle, she lives in a household of psychopaths.
The originals fight and claw their way into safety, the sort of battle that’s foreign to them. Throughout the film, there seems to be some emphasis placed on the doppelganger’s golden scissors. Perhaps this is the director’s euphemism of ‘cutting out the dirt’. The double does not only apply to persona, but likewise to similar experiences. For instance, the family hangs out at the exact same beach where Adelaide got lost. Jason likewise wanders near the house of mirrors, just as his mother did so many moons ago. There is also a man holding a cardboard sign with Jeremiah 11.11 written on it. That same man turns into a dying hobo by film’s end. While a chain link of people clasp hands for the aforementioned hands across America, the duplicates do so in the present.
Us has been called both ‘stylish and inventive’. I must admit that Jordan Peele’s second effort was highly original and enjoyable. In particular, Lupita’s portrayal of an SD sufferer was spooky and commanded attention. Bad press notwithstanding, Red’s was one of the more indelible horror performances in recent years. The ominous music also heightened the suspense. While at times confusing, gory, and unpredictable, this uncanniness is what makes this offering a great horror flick. Us refuses to be bunched together with the norm and it shows. This was almost the second week of release and I was surprised that it wasn’t a bigger hit among Sydney audiences. Don’t be fooled though from what it was: a hugely entertaining watch that’s very much worth every moment. If you want something fresh and different, look no further.