Jordan Peele’s second directorial outing, “Us” is a horror story about a family suddenly tormented by their seeming doppelgängers. Where did they come from and what do they want? The movie explores this, though not always in a satisfactory manner.
The movie begins in the 1980s with a young Adelaide (Madison Curry) on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA with her parents on her birthday. She wanders off from her folks into the local house of mirrors, where she meets another little girl who looks exactly like her. Cut to her parents, after reconnecting with her, concerned about her frightened state and lack of talking. Then we flash forward to adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) going on vacation with her husband Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), and two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex).
While at their summer home, Gabe explains that some family friends (also on vacation) want to get together at the Santa Cruz beach, and Adelaide is extremely reluctant to go. She relents, provided they come back before dark. That night after returning, she finally explains to her husband why she doesn’t like the boardwalk and what happened to her as a child. He tries to brush off her fears as nothing but childhood paranoia when lost in a spook house, when their son interrupts them to inform there is a family standing at the end of the driveway.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen this part. The family is, of course, the aforementioned doppelgängers of the Wilsons. Violence ensues as our family fights for their survival, and to get to the bottom of who these home invaders really are.
The main problem I had with this is when we do find out just who the invaders are, where they come from, what they want, and so forth, it is just…dumb. While at first reaction you might go, “Ohhh…that’s what is going on…” the more thought you give it, the more you’ll realize how little sense it makes. Too many simple, day-to-day examples won’t play out properly with the explanation given — though if I were to offer some of those examples I’d have to spoil the movie.
That said, the movie is certainly well-made, well-acted (considering even the kids play two roles, kudos to them), but the story ruined it for me. I am amazed at the praise being heaped upon how frightening people are finding the movie. I wasn’t scared in the slightest. Is there some deeper meaning to the film, such as in Peele’s first effort “Get Out“? The most I could consider is that when young Adelaide is wandering the boardwalk she eyes a man with a sign reading “Jeremiah 11:11”, which in the New International Version of the Bible reads (with verses 9 and 10 for context):
9 Then the Lord said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10 They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.
Since the Wilson family is at their summer home, somewhat envious of their friend’s home and belongings (“He had to buy that car,” Gabe laments at one point), perhaps the ancestral sins are greed and jealousy, with the other gods being worshiped money and material things? The doubles, when asked “What are you?,” reply, “We’re Americans.” With the title doubling as the abbreviation U.S., perhaps all is meant to be a statement on American avarice. I have another thought as well, but would also require spoiling the explanation, so I’ll refrain from discussing it.
Then again, maybe it’s just a movie and I’m thinking too hard about it.
Final Grade: C-