Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ is a Horror Masterpiece [Review]
Jordan Peele’s horror masterpiece Us is coming home on Blu-ray this month, and it is a vital addition to every genre fan’s collection, with a ton of cool bonus features and immeasurable rewatchability value.
In the story of a family who encounter evil doppelgangers of themselves while vacationing in Santa Cruz, California, Peele has created an entirely new mythology rooted in a basic human fear that predates the invention of cinema, that of the other, the dark passenger, the shadow stranger we see in the mirror.
I had never really thought about what it would be like to have to fight for my life against myself, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since seeing Us. How do you stop an attack from your equal, who knows your every fear and weakness, every strength, every phobia, every thought, and it wants only all that you have and cherish the most? It’s a truly terrifying idea.
Lupita Nyong’o delivers two separate Oscar-worthy performances as both the primary protagonist, Adelaide, and her doppelganger antagonist, Red, that are together instantly iconic. As Red, she is surprisingly scary and actually original, a rarity in horror, with an intensely creepy voice that at first seems to rise up from the darkest depths of her soul.
Red is an almost Christ-like savior to the doppelgangers, which Peele refer to as the Tethered. She has waited patiently and planned meticulously, and her time has come.
According to the Blu-ray bonus featurette Becoming Red, Nyong’o stayed in character the entire time while she was on set, and it includes three straight minutes of her in character as Red caught on camera in between takes, a fascinating look at an incredible talent at work.
Acting classes in the future will undoubtedly by taught about this amazing dual performance. Give her all of the awards now.
As the Tethered get closer, the weird coincidences increase around Adelaide’s family, as they head to the seemingly idyllic beach, where a childhood trauma haunts her.
Peele’s love of the horror genre is generously threaded throughout the film, from young Adelaide’s “Thriller” t-shirt to her son, Jason’s Jaws shirt and werewolf mask, to the setting of Santa Cruz itself, which once served as the fictional “Santa Carla” home of The Lost Boys, not to mention making the amusement park funhouse the center of his story.
Composer Michael Abels’ epic score is dramatic and intense, and the pop culture songs used throughout the film are perfectly selected. I especially love a particularly gruesome death scene that is set to the contrasting sunny bob of The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”, only to then hilariously switch to NWA’s “F… the Police” as our heroes prepare to retaliate.
In the 10-minute featurette The Duality of Us, Peele confirms that Jason can in fact see that something isn’t quite right with his mom and notices some of the eerie coincidences that foreshadow what’s to come. He’s a step ahead of everyone else and can “see through veil”, Peele says. I loved listening to Peele talk in depth about the recurring imagery and transcendent themes that make Us a modern classic.
I especially enjoyed the smaller moments from Adelaide’s flashback to 1986 on the boardwalk, which are echoed for young Red simultaneously in the Underpass, like the homeless man with a Jeremiah 11: 11 sign and the couple playing Rock Paper Scissors who always seem to end up on scissors.
Six deleted scenes are included among the Blu-ray’s extras, the most notable of which details the significance of the Nutcracker ballet flashback dance, as Adelaide explains that it is intended as a duo but she made it into a solo, and that it was the “greatest moment of my life”. In one of the best bonus features included in this set, you can watch the entire dance sequence, with Adelaide’s performance intercut with Red’s going on at the same time below in the Underpass.
Additional bonus features on the Blu-ray include a brief but informative look at how almost every scene was filmed twice, with the cast switching roles to their “bad” versions, and the interesting challenges that acting against yourself presents. There’s also an extended collection of outtakes from the beach between Winston Duke’s Gabe and Tim Heidecker’s Josh, and a fun look at Peele as a bold new voice in the horror genre.
The only thing the Blu-ray is regrettably missing is a feature length commentary track with Peele (I’d love one with Nyong’o, too), which would have been nice, though there is still a wealth of good stuff packed into this release.
Three of the best scenes in the film are deconstructed in separate three-minute “Scene Explorations” that give all kinds of insight that film geeks like me are going to love. Among the scenes covered in detail is the awesome, silent but deadly “Seven Second Massacre” at Josh and Kitty’s (Elisabeth Moss) house.
In another featurette, The Monsters Within Us, Peele acknowledges the influences of Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger in the simple yet instantly recognizable red jumpsuit costume design and the overall look of the Tethered. I fully expect to see groups of Tethered cosplayers at every horror convention from now on.
Us is everything that horror fans have been asking for – something fresh that honors the past while breaking new ground and introducing a tragic new monster to join the ranks of the great archetypes of terror by adhering to nothing that came before it. This is a film that will continue to be talked about for decades to come.
Quite possibly the movie of the year and a landmark horror film for the ages, Us is out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on June 18.
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