Jordan Peele is back with his second horror film, and ohmygod it is a RIDE.
Us starts off in 1986, with a tiny television airing a commercial for Hands Across America – the controversial fundraising effort that spurred protests and didn’t really deliver on its lofty promises of helping the homeless (put a pin in that and save it for later).
We follow young Adelaide as she visits the Santa Cruz boardwalk with her parents, where she wanders off into a mirrored funhouse, gets spooked, and sees … herself. BUT LIKE IN THE MOST TERRIFYING WAY YOU HAVE EVER IMAGINED. I’m never going in one of those things ever ever ever again. I’m serious.
Flash forward to grown-up Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), who is headed with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and son Jason (Evan Alex) to a Santa Cruz beach house for a summer getaway. When Gabe suggests they go to the beach at the boardwalk, she resists — evidence that the terrifying funhouse incident still has an effect on her — but he somehow convinces her to go.
Once there, they meet up with status-symbol obsessed summer friends Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker). But even though they’re on the picturesque beach Adelaide just cannot relax. Back home, she reveals why; she believes the other “her” she glimpsed in the funhouse is real and is coming for her now, getting closer every second they stay there.
Gabe is still trying to laugh off her suspicions when a family of four just like, shows up in their driveway. A family of four that looks A LOT like them, except dressed in red jumpsuits and carrying gold scissors. He valiantly tries to protect the family, but their doubles make it in, sit down, and calmly explain that it’s time for the “untethering.” Yes, that process is as horrific as it sounds.
From the moment those red jumpsuit doppelgängers show up (which is, if I remember correctly, only about 20 minutes in), this film gets super INTENSE with absolutely no moments to breathe. It’s a good thing that Peele injected the script with a lot of humor, or viewers might pass out while watching.
Inquiring horror fans will want to know: is it scary? And the answer is YES, it’s f*cking terrifying — but it’s also a lot of fun. Gabe drops dad jokes with a skill reminiscent of Clark Griswold; Kitty and Josh are perfect privileged white stereotypes (I may have laughed a little too hard at her “This rosé is delish!” line, TOO CLOSE TO HOME); there’s a well-placed line from The Goonies in a pivotal scene, and Zora and Jason’s brother/sister quips feel perfectly placed even while they’re fighting for their lives.
All of this plus the excellent cast will have you on the edge of your seat, yelling at the screen, hiding behind your hands, and laughing through the entire film, even when it plunges into its completely insane third act. Everything you’ve heard about Nyong’o deserving an Oscar nom is true; she nails it as both Adelaide and her double. Ditto for Duke, and THOSE KIDS. Those kids are just. I cannot. Moss is also perfection.
Comparisons to Get Out are of course, inevitable. Like his first film, Peel has packed Us with clues that lead you past the surface into a deeper message that addresses the racial and economic divide in our country; the ignored, the homeless, all the people we look past — they’re “us.” And we better start paying attention.