With just his second feature as a director, Jordan Peele (Get Out) delivers the kind of dense, twist-laden horror-thriller that M. Night Shyamalan has been struggling to pull off successfully for the last 20 years.
Opening with an eerie encounter in a boardwalk mirror maze in 1986, and a perplexing shot of a room full of caged white bunnies, Us dives down the rabbit hole to reflect society through a glass darkly. Peele understands all too well that when it comes to generating real horror, nothing is scarier than human beings.
Fast forwarding to present day, a family vacation at the beach quickly descends into a surreal nightmare for Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex), when they are confronted by their own homicidal doppelgängers. Who are they and what do they want? The answers prove to be weirder and more profound than you can imagine…
The best horror films possess an undercurrent of social commentary and where Get Out tackled the modern African-American experience, Us has plenty to say about class struggle and the puppetmasters who pull the strings behind the scenes.
Relentlessly paced and freakishly scary, with perfectly pitched performances (Nyong’o’s double act is a highlight), Peele’s brilliant subversion of the home invasion thriller is a dark and delirious ride fuelled by a surfeit of ideas that give the grey matter a thorough workout. Clues to the mystery are planted early but you’ll need to pay attention – videotapes of The Man with Two Brains and C.H.U.D. are just two subtle pointers – and even the most incidental scenes have significance.
Moreover, Peele’s comic prowess adds a wonderful dichotomy to many of the set-pieces. “There’s a family standing in our driveway” is a statement that’s simultaneously sinister and hilarious, as is the incongruity of slaughter scored to the Beach Boys’ breezy Good Vibrations.
Us is one of the most ambitious and inventive horror films in years, leaving the audience with much to process, and a discombobulating climax that will incite lengthy discussion well into the night.
In cinemas: March 28, 2019
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss
Directed by: Jordan Peele