Nick Rogers wrote a much more in-depth review of Us for Midwest Film Journal back in March when the movie was released in theaters.
Michael Abels’ killer score carries the best moments of Us, writer-director Jordan Peele’s sophomore foray into horror films — particularly in a sequence where two identical women, Adelaide and Red (a stunning dual role by Lupita Nyong’o), fight it out in a darkened corridor. Unforgettable craftsmanship on every level. It’s an iconic sequence, yet another for Peele, whose transformation from comedy virtuoso to modern master of horror is more or less complete at this point. Oddly enough, though, few other moments in Us stick as saliently, and despite being a good horror film, it isn’t quite a great one, thematically muddled and almost too seamless in its production.
Peele’s first, Get Out, was lightning in a bottle, connecting with the current moment while delivering well-crafted dread and legitimate scares. Us lacks the polish of his first feature but feels like the movie film nerds online declare “better than Get Out” in a decade or so, after Peele has delivered a dozen movies / TV shows / scripts and has fully established himself as a longstanding source of scary movies. It’s hard to declare that to be the case now. The social commentary in Us is less pointed, more generally mournful, and the plot contrivances to arrive at the final message feel more labored and emotionally disconnected from the tension of the story’s early moments.
There’s plenty to love, though, particularly the stellar cast who each play dual roles. Nyong’o leads, but Winston Duke is here as her husband; Elisabeth Moss portrays her friend, with husband Tim Heidecker (one of Peele’s fellow comedians) taking on a rare serious role. Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph play Jason and Zora, Adelaide’s children, and Alex especially carries the tension when Nyong’o doesn’t. The images on all the marketing of a little boy wearing a mask, saying creepy stuff? All Alex, all great. The DVD release actually includes several special features dedicated to the actors discussing their process for playing dual characters, with one feature specifically focusing on Nyong’o.
Other special features include looks into Peele’s career and the writing of Us, and a deep dive into some of his story-telling choices.