(This review is ridden with spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie yet please turn away and get to seeing the movie.)
Hours after my second viewing of Jordan Peele’s epic horror film, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Its twist of an ending, (though I guessed it very early in the film), still haunts me long after its revelation. The film has so much to say in almost two hours and there’s so much to take away from the experience. Much of what I’m saying here is just made from my own speculation and inferences, but I’m pretty confident in my views on the film.
The main theme I took away from this is the silent, haunting power of consequences. Early in the film we are presented the idea that the psychological damage only lies on the end of the Adelaide we are initially presented with. She is back in her childhood home sometime after the death of her mother and still suffering from an experience that sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone. This woman evoked sympathy and in some sense empathy as this girl lost some shred of innocence, (heavily inferred from her dropping a red candy apple), as she separates herself from her parents for what seemed to be mere minutes, now grown up with a family of her own, but still clearly shaken by what she saw.
After seeing the movie for a second time, I found myself rooting for Adelaide’s return home. That is, the true Adelaide that whistles to the door in the night and walks into her home with a pair of golden shears and a family made from blood, hunger, fear, violence, and a world she wasn’t supposed to know let alone reside in. The Adelaide that was taken to live with the Tethered, has a plan to expose the Tethered, and wants revenge against the thief that stole her identity. Though none of the Tethered truly belonged where they were or deserved their circumstances, I began to feel the one that was even more traumatized is the one that speaks as though all of her pain made a home in her throat. This probably goes without saying but y’all can go ahead and give Lupita Nyong’o her Oscar now, but more on that later.
Viewing the film as a revenge, sci-fi horror film rather than what we were initially presented back in January’s trailer, I have to say I really wish Adelaide won in the end. But recognizing that also means that I have to evaluate myself because wouldn’t I want a better life if I were Red? Wouldn’t I feel entitled to at least basic human rights? Wouldn’t I want to experience the beauty that lies in love rather than pain of abuse? Would I see an opportunity to escape my pain, my trauma, my terrible upbringing, and just not take it?
Would I see a person that looks like me but better in some way than me and let manipulation and opportunism take over rather than simply learning what I can from them? Based on wanting Adelaide to exact her revenge rather than finding some other way to alert the masses of the darkness hiding beneath the surface, I’d have to say I’m not looking so great. But maybe that’s what Jordan Peele was trying to ask considering the events that unfold tie to black trauma.
Is Jordan Peele contrasting black people that are perhaps more educated, (Howard sweater), more determined, (Jason insisting on getting his magic trick right), and have developed a voice, (Red’s voice and vocabulary change after the switch), against those that look like us but are suffering from starvation and drowning in pain? Are we more likely to reach out a hand to help or are we more inclined make poor choices and harbor subconscious guilt that silently eats us away? Aren’t we better off joining forces to destroy the system that created a clearly, terribly unbalanced playing field, (“I wondered why you didn’t take me with you“),? Jordan’s vision tells a heartbreaking truth; Even in blackness, there will always be an Us versus Them.
Give Lupita Nyong’o and Jordan Peele Another Oscar
I have known that Lupita Nyong’o was one of the best actresses to grace the screen ever since her work in what was most likely the last historical slavery movie I’ll ever see. She is good wherever she goes on screen and off as she commands attention to either her beautiful face, her sense of style, or her humble personality. Her work in Us is her best yet as she flexes her voice, accent changes, and is quite possibly the best horror villain, -(or in my mind, a sort of antihero), I have ever seen.
From the moment she walks into her childhood home to her last breath, Lupita truly brings it as every Adeliade scene captivated and unnerved me. The most exciting scene with this villain is the showdown between Red and Adelaide as Red learns everything the other Tethered ones plan to do. The way she moves is made even creepier as a ballet dance sequence also cuts in simultaneously which reminded me of another psychological horror movie titled Black Swan. I was so blown away by her performance that I’ll most likely end up seeing this movie at least 3 more times before it’s gone from theaters.
If the point wasn’t quite clear already, Jordan Peele is one of the best horror writers and film directors of all time. Everything has a point and everything can be twisted in so many different ways to make a statement while also bringing in a few earnest laughs. One of the best parts of Jordan’s filmmaking is his ability to burrow horror deep into your mind long after the credits roll without gratuitous gore. Don’t get me wrong though, Us is certainly bloody but the wonderfully disturbing bits lie in its plot, characters, acting, and writing.
Though I still am not done reeling and extracting points from ‘Us’, (and definitely not done buying a ticket to see it), I look forward to more horrifying, psychological probing he’s going to be serving up in theaters next.