DUBAI: All eyes are on Jordan Peele as he attempts to dodge a sophomore slump with his creepy new horror feature, "Us, "after his marvelous debut feature, “Get Out,” earned him an Oscar nod trifecta — Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay (which he won).
In “Us,” Peele tells the story of an African-American family in California whose idyllic vacation at their holiday home is interrupted by killer doppelgangers who show up dressed in red coveralls, armed with scissors.
The horror unravels with the eerie visitors trying to gut the family with their unusual choice of weapon, but this isn’t simply a slasher flick; it takes darker and more mysterious turns along the way.
Peele’s masterful storytelling is enough to overcome the relatively unoriginal premise, and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis brings Peele’s vision to life with compelling high-contrast visuals.
The technique is highlighted early; the film opens with a flashback to 1986, with a young girl wandering into a ramshackle Hall of Mirrors in a beachside funfair. Inside, she sees a reflection that terrifies, and deeply scars, her, kicking off the film’s major narrative arc.
The young girl grows up to be Adelaide (played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o), the matriarch of the family, who plays the role with a compelling energy, matched by “Black Panther” co-star Winston Duke, who plays her husband in the movie. Duke provides some of the film’s best moments, with Peele using his character for some much-needed comic relief.
Peele’s wildly imaginative tale employs some tried-and-tested horror-movie tropes, from slow camera movements and tight reaction shots that really highlight Nyong’o’s striking facial expressions to haunting sound design. The film’s deft use of music is on another level, even transforming a hip-hop song into a hair-raising terror tune.
“Us” is not just a horror movie, though. As he did in “Get Out,” Peele delivers a story with social commentary, although this time it’s not as straightforward. “Us” shrouds its message in mind-bending metaphors, and character lines that are often hit-and-miss.
The eccentricities and creativity of the film’s plot are somewhat wasted by its rather predictable climax, but overall “Us” is a thrilling, frightening ride.