By Miguel E. Rodriguez
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elizabeth Moss
My Rating: 9/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 94% Certified Fresh
PLOT: A family’s beach vacation turns sinister when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.
[SPOILER, SPOILER, MOST CERTAIN SPOILERS TO FOLLOW]
It’s abundantly clear after two films (with hopefully many more to come) that Jordan Peele was and is an enormous fan of The Twilight Zone, that legendary TV show that presented tales of strange and the weird situations that very often turned into legitimate horror stories. For me, that’s what Us is: a feature-length episode of The Twilight Zone, with everything amped up to 11, including the ambitious nature of the ending which, I think, bit off a little more than it could chew.
However, the ending is not what makes this film special, it’s how we get there. And the events leading up to the end of the film make for one of the most unsettling movie experiences I’ve ever had.
I cannot stress the creepy nature of this story enough. A family’s beach vacation is interrupted when intruders invade their home, and the intruders turn out to be…their doubles. Doppelgängers. Virtually identical except for disturbing aspects, like an additional scar or a perpetual smile or a cloth mask. When these “others” faced their victims inside the house, I was indescribably terrified. I found myself asking, what would I do in this situation? If I found myself sitting across from an exact duplicate of me, a duplicate who never spoke but just stared and smiled and made weird clicking noises instead of talking?
I’d s**t myself, that’s what I’d do.
The story takes some interesting twists and turns, and it doesn’t follow traditional genre convention when it comes to who lives and who dies. Whenever I expected one thing to happen, the movie neatly sidestepped my expectations ingeniously.
There’s also unexpected comedy, especially when someone tries to use their automated personal assistant at a crucial moment. Think of all the times Siri has misinterpreted your questions. Yeah. It’s one of THOSE moments.
The movie is an amalgam of the best moments of Rod Serling, M. Night Shyamalan, Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, and even a little Spielberg here and there with the comedy moments. It’s clear that director Jordan Peele has digested the best films from these directors and crafted his own take on the horror/suspense genre, using those masters as a guide. (I’m referring to Shyamalan’s EARLIER films when I call him a master, because they WERE masterful…not his later stuff, which is…not great.)
I, for one, found myself sucked into the story, hook, line, and sinker. It did become clear, however, that the underlying reason for the existence of these doppelgängers was, inevitably, going to be a LITTLE disappointing. Science experiment gone awry? Space aliens? Results of a newly-emerging virus? As the movie entered its final stages and the meaning behind the doubles’ existence was revealed, I did find myself a little disappointed. Like when someone shows you how a stunning magic trick was accomplished with a simple fake thumb.
Would it have been more interesting to leave the existence of these doubles unexplained? To make it a TRUE Twilight Zone episode and leave the audience with a mystery instead of a true resolution? I think it would have been more interesting that way, so instead of shaking my head at the almost banal nature of the doppelgängers, I would have left intrigued. After all, John Carpenter never explained how Michael Meyers vanished after being shot several times at point blank range. But it was CREEPY, brother.
So, there you go. I loved it, the ending was a little disappointing, but not disappointing enough to kill the movie for me. The journey was more important than the final destination, in my book.