In most films, the baddies are always ‘The Other’ – some external force, figure or agency that poses a threat to be overcome.
Ripley had to defeat the xenomorph in Alien; the one-armed stranger had to defeat an entire town in Bad Day at Black Rock.
But in director Jordan Peele’s (Get Out) new, provocative film, Us (Cert 16, 117 mins), the enemy is quite literally us, ourselves – and who can provide a more potent, terrifying enemy than yourself?
It’s an interesting concept that underpins the film, which plays with conventions of the psycho-horror genre (adding a dash of sociopolitical commentary), but also throws in some creepy laughs that, together, creates a striking film from Peele.
At its heart, then, the film has a straightforward enough central premise that’s easy to sum up, but which Us takes as a basis to play with and experiment with audience expectations.
In Us, a nice, ordinary small family of middle-class black people – the Wilsons – find themselves in a fight for their survival when some creepy, murderous doppelgangers show up one night at their home.
That’s a simple summary, but the film plays with that premise, becoming in some ways as much a commentary on various tensions currently ripping through US society as it is more directly about ‘evil twin wants to replace you’.
Yet there’s something of a mystery, too, to unpack at the heart of the film.
These Others aren’t just, say, hellspawn who’ve randomly wandered in from The Leprechaun Dimension – their ties to the terrified Wilsons are revealed as deep-rooted.
We’ve already been primed for something weird in mum Adelaide’s (a terrific Lupita Nyong’o) past, with a prelude section that put her as a girl in an unsettling situation with modern-day echoes.
That unnerving event, carried as a secret she’s kept even from her easygoing husband Gabe (a likeable Winston Duke), seems to have finally come back to haunt her on this particular very long, dark night of the soul.
Ultimately, the everyman Wilsons are forced into a fight for their very lives, even though escaping the Others, and the neighborhood, may be easier said than done.
Us is, at the very least, an inventively creative film that’s hard to sum up.
Add a dash of slasherdom here, a pinch of comedy there, then stir in some sly commentary, et voila: you’re presented with a memorable slice of some fine film fare.
And if this doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry – I’m sure your creepy, murderous double will lap it up…
- Verdict: 8/10