It's Not You, It's Us
April 5, 2019 | By Sarika Mujumdar
If you know you’re about to watch a movie directed by Jordan Peele, Academy Award Winner and director of “Get Out”, you know that it is going to be anything but what you are expecting. “Us,” starring Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, is a horror/thriller film about a family of four who encounters their creepy doppelgängers while on vacation, and nothing is what it seems. Throughout the film, Peele manages to cleverly weave in the past with the present, allowing the audience to witness the chips slowly falling where they may within his narrative.
Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures
With a whopping 94% rating by Rotten Tomatoes, “Us” exceeded expectations in theaters. “Us”, which premiered March 22, managed to not only have the biggest opening for an original horror film, but also had the biggest opening for an original R-rated film of all time. And, despite only having a $4.5 million budget, “Us” grossed over $255.4 million. With an accomplished director, favorites from the highly successful movie Black Panther, and an intriguing plot line, it is not surprising that this film has received tons of praise.
The film opens up with a flashback of little Adelaide Thomas (played by Madison Curry) on a boardwalk with her parents in Santa Cruz. Adelaide wanders off on her own into a creepy hall of mirrors, which is where she first meets her doppelgänger. What happens next is obviously not revealed until later, but the film fast forwards to adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) going back to Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and two kids for vacation. From the beginning, Adelaide has been sensing fear and trouble, but it is only time until the power is conveniently lost, and a family of four, who looks exactly like the Wilsons, is standing outside their driveway. Despite attempts to stop the intruder look-alikes from entering, the doppelgängers, each wearing red jumpsuits and carrying a pair of scissors, manage to enter the house and cause havoc all around. To ease the intensity caused by the unexpected jump scares, gore, and tense music, there is a good amount of comedic relief that is sure to get the audience laughing. Unsurprisingly, the most exciting and jaw-dropping moment of the film occurs at the end. Just when you think the story is concluding, Peele throws a curveball in the final minutes, leaving audience eager for a discussion as the credits start rolling.
While the film did have typical horror elements, “Us” is definitely not like any movie I have seen before. The film holds several unique references, including the infamous rabbit hole, in which Lupita Nyong’o’s character literally goes down the rabbit hole to face trouble. The most recurring reference though is to Hands Across America, a benefit event that occurred in 1986. During this event, approximately 6.5 million people formed a human chain to raise money for charities that fight poverty. Apart from the horror and gore, one of the more subtle themes in “Us” is in fact poverty and discrimination. In a post premiere Q&A, Peele said “‘We’re in a time where we fear the other…We’re all about pointing the finger… Maybe the evil, it’s us.’” A simple word, “us” can mean so much more than what the baseline connotation may be seen as, and Peele wants to especially highlight this through his creation.
Despite all the fictitious elements a horror movie must possess, “Us” highlights some of the ugly truths our world is currently facing, including prejudice and hatred. This movie is a call for awareness of one’s actions and the importance of taking responsibility when due. The story may be fake, but the emotions, the hard work that went into making this film, the acting, and the underlying message is as real as it can ever be.