‘Once upon a time, there was a girl and the girl had a shadow…’
With Get Out, Jordan Peele gave the horror genre something that it had been chasing for decades – critical recognition. And not only was Get Out a huge hit with critics, it was also nominated for four Oscars. For a horror film to be recognised by the Academy is almost unheard of, and it felt like a watershed moment for the horror genre.
Since then, Peele has brought us a hit and miss reboot of The Twilight Zone as well as the long awaited follow up to Get Out, the snappily titled Us.
As a child, my friends and I were constantly preoccupied with grisly urban legends and strange, dubious myths. These ranged from the odd (there is a mad teacher that lives in the school’s attic) to the genuinely disturbing (a kid in a neighbouring school had placed sharpened pencils in his nostrils and then slammed his head on the desk due to exam stress). One of the more outlandish rumours was that everyone has a doppelgänger – that being the theory that the whole population has someone who is their exact replica walking around somewhere and, most chillingly, that if you happened to meet your doppelgänger, you would instantly go mad. This led to me often freezing in fear at the sight of any chubby, pale kid with a bad haircut. The ‘90s were a difficult decade for me…
Us takes this fear of encountering our doppelgänger to its natural conclusion – the concept that if you did meet your duplicate, then they would inevitably try to murder you.
Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe (Winston Duke) Wilson are happily married with two children. A trip to Santa Cruz forces Adelaide to confront a childhood trauma that has haunted her for decades. I have kept that synopsis intentionally brief because Us is a film that works best when you know as little as possible going into it.
As I’ve stated many times, horror works best when hidden in the shadows and while Us packs a visceral punch, the surrounding mythos of Peele’s doppelgängers is kept horrifyingly vague. A dark backstory is hinted at and this only makes the harsh reality of what befalls the Wilson family even more troubling.
Us is a film that scared me right back to hushed whispers in a primary school classroom. The doppelgänger concept is one that I have always been petrified by and Jordan Peele has brought it to life in a way that is unique, powerful and compelling.
Peele is probably the most exciting horror movie director in Hollywood right now. Drink him in.