Whilst I love a good psychological thriller, I am not a fan of stereotypical jump-scare films that have little-to-no plot. This means that the horror genre is a little bit of minefield for me, and one that will usually get pushed to the side in favour of a less hide-under-my-coat film. That being said, Jordan Peele is a name that has been on everybody’s lips since his Oscar winning directorial debut, Get Out. So when his latest offering Us was announced, I felt as though I had to suck it up and see what all the fuss was about.
Thankfully, this film was not a mindless, plotless jump-scare horror movie but it also fell short of being a good psychological thriller, and overall I was disappointed. Fundamentally, this film is reminiscent of a 1980’s slasher flick with a Shyamalan-esque twist that is more confusing than revelatory.
During a trip to the fair with her parents, a young girl wanders off down to the beach and into a hall of mirrors, where a strange encounter leaves her traumatised and unable to speak. Fast forward to present day, and she returns to her childhood home with her own family for what seems to be a yearly tradition. This year’s break however takes an unexpected turn when a family of ‘shadows’ turn up on their driveway. Their intentions sadistic but their motivations unclear.
Initially, the film was actually quite suspenseful, tense without the need for unnecessary jump scares but then it lost it’s way, mainly due to poor writing. It was hard, at times, to determine whether the film was a horror or comedy, and there were several occasions where both me and Mark were giggling at the absurdity of it all. The twist, when finally revealed, was intriguing but kind of felt as though it belonged to a different film entirely.
Whilst the acting was predominantly strong all round, the standout performances were from the two matriarchal actors; Adelaide/Red (Lupita Nyong’o) and Kitty/Dahlia (Elisabeth Moss). Nyong’o handled the responsibility of the lead role very well, brilliantly portraying both the doe-eyed victim and the sinister antagonist. Moss has a limited amount of screen time but she steals the show whenever she is on screen.
The choices and actions of the main characters were so cliched that instead of me cowering behind my coat, as I so often do during horror movies, I wanted to shout at the screen in frustration. Like seriously, just lock the door and wait the fourteen minutes it would take for the police to arrive. Think you’ve ran far enough to escape, you haven’t, keep running. Think you’ve got the killer, hit ’em again just to be sure. Admittedly, these may have been used intentionally to add to the 1980’s nostalgia but personally, I found them boring and somewhat distracting.
Although a little too dark in places, visually this film was very well executed and the music was used to such effect that at certain times it enhanced the suspense, but at others it was jarringly different to the action being portrayed on the screen. While not unpleasant, it did nothing to clarify whether this film was supposed to be a horror or a comedy.
As I have previously said, I am not the biggest fan of horror films, so my negative reaction may be a little biased but I would be really interested to see what horror fans think of this. So take a trip to the cinema, check it out for yourself and let me know your thoughts. Don’t forget the popcorn.