in Review, Shocktober

Us (2019)

I can’t believe Us came out this year. The film already feels so ingrained in pop culture. It was parodied on SNL and at the MTV Movie Awards (that’s when you know you’ve made it). It’s hard for me to picture a pre-Us world. The film was a hit and an immediate genre classic. Yet I still hear the conversation of “I liked it BUT…” Now it was a lot to ask for Us to live up to the critical and cultural impact of Get Out. Jordan Peele’s debut carried an easier message to decipher. Though I do believe Us sheds light on important issues as well. That being said, if there’s one advantage Us has over Get Out it’s that it’s scarier. Which is a big deal when you’re talking horror.

Watching Us again for the first time since it came out in theaters (I had to buy the Limited Edition Blu-Ray Steelbook the day it came out) was a different experience. I didn’t have to keep asking myself questions about what it all meant. I could enjoy the craft without trying to uncover clues. I could enjoy other elements. One being, this movie looks and sounds amazing.

“Sounds?” Yes, from the unnerving groans of the untethered to the slashing of body parts this movie is a visceral assault on the ears. Not to mention the soundtrack is incredible. The opening theme by Michael Abels (also the composer of Get Out) that features a children’s choir alongside African drums is haunting. This is the theme that plays over a shot of dozens of rabbits in cages as we pull out alongside the credits. And who could forget the film’s inclusion of “I Got 5 on It”? Particularly how Abels weaves the song into the score. You find me a horror playlist in 2019 that does not include this song.

Visually, Us is full of eye candy. Like the ‘80s easter eggs hidden in the film’s opening sequence (CHUD VHS anyone?). BTW that opening sequence on the pier? All the detail and tension leading up to the house of mirrors? Like it, love it, gotta have it.

From pacing to how the film is shot Us is a masterclass in directing. Then there lies the question of the story. The film is a clever metaphor for how we choose to abandon and ignore those who are the same as us. Yet the exposition dump in the film’s final half-hour is often criticized. Where do I weigh in on the plausibility of everyone in America having a clone living underground?

I think it’s cool. Does it make sense? Of course not, but neither did Get Out and I didn’t hear anybody complain about that. Have we lost our ability to suspend our disbelief? The Tethered acts as a storytelling device. They serve a purpose as a counterpart to our character’s faults. To the faults of society too. I think this bugs people because Jordan Peele does attempt to explain their existence to an extent. Seems like people don’t like that scene. But if he didn’t people would complain there was no attempt to explain anything.

I’d rather get the full effect of a metaphor than break it down and put it back together piece by piece. That takes time. Time that’s far better spent on thrills. Us gives us the highlights. It gives us great performances from talents like Lupita Nyong’o. Why must we take down a film that’s aspiring to be so much more than its contemporaries? We just like to complain. After all… we’re Americans.