Mellon at the Movies: Us
Jordan Peele follows up his 2017 smash hit Get Out with another meticulously crafted chiller that is only held back by its own overreaching ambition
If you take each individual scene on its own merit then Us is that rare breed of horror that doesn't feel cheap or gimmicky. It's often utterly terrifying and the constantly escalating tension makes for an experience that is almost uncomfortably eerie.
It's when you look at the bigger picture, and consider the film as a collective whole that things start to get a little messier.
Us revolves around an American family whose vacation takes a sinister turn when they're tormented by a pack of murderous doppelgängers. There is, of course, something inherently scary about a twisted version of yourself chasing you with a pair of sharp scissors, and the film gets a lot of mileage out of that.
Once the horrific proceedings kick off, around 25 minutes in, the film never lets up. The scares come thick and fast and the tension only increases as the climax draws nearer. This helps the relatively lengthy, for the genre, two-hour run time feel much shorter.
Of course, it's a Jordan Peele film, so there's a great deal of subtext and interpretable imagery throughout. There are small details and winking references everywhere, even the title itself has two meanings, referring both to the doppelgängers themselves and the United States. A second watch with the full picture in mind seems almost essential.
The film is anchored by a remarkable dual performance from Lupita Nyong'o as both the mother of the family and her doppelgänger. The events of the film stem from a trauma in her childhood and the way Nyong'o plays both victim and villain is impressive.
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There's some levity added to the proceedings by Winston Duke, who plays the father of the family, but unlike in Get Out the comedic sprinkling does occasionally spoil otherwise tense scenes.Elizabeth Moss shows up as well for a small supporting role that certainly leaves a mark.
It's when the film attempts to explain how the doppelgängers came to be, and their true objective is laid out that Us unfortunately stumbles. The third act deserves some credit for being so ambitious, but it requires you to fill in too many blanks to excuse its flimsy logic.
Ultimately, while Us has important things to say about society, social class and America as a whole, it finds marrying that with a truly satisfying narrative conclusion disappointingly difficult.
3/5 - Holiday from Hell