Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’: Strong, But Not ‘Get Out’ Strong

Given how outstanding of a film Jordan Peele’s Get Out was, my expectations for Us were practically through the roof. Us currently holds a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes as well, which was even more reason for me to believe this film would be on the same level as Peele’s debut Academy Award-winner. With all that being said, I figured it would be tough for Peele to produce a film of the same stature as Get Out, but that if anyone could do it, it was Peele. However, to be completely honest, Us definitely fell quite a bit flat of my sky-high expectations. It was still undoubtedly a very good film, but just not of the same calibre as Get Out. Also, as somebody who has grown to love horror films and the adrenaline pump one gets from watching them, I was sadly disappointed to find that Us wasn’t really all that terrifying in my eyes. More than anything though, I wasn’t totally sure what the greater social commentary was, or if there even was one. Whereas from watching Get Out once, I felt like I was able to garner the greater message pretty easily, with Us, I think I may need to watch it a few more times to really understand what Peele was going for with this film.

When it came to the horror aspects of Us, I would argue that the first half of the film offered much more terror and suspense than the rest of the film. Some moments I remember that I definitely found pretty terrifying were at the beginning when the younger Adelaide Wilson walked into the mirror maze and saw her doppelganger in one of the mirrors, which then turned around to reveal itself as its own entity before the screen turned to black, leaving what happened afterwards a mystery until the film’s conclusion. Outside of that scene, the only other moment in the film where I felt any real fear was when the family’s red jumpsuit-wearing doubles were standing outside the house with their hands interlocked, which seemed to draw inspiration from Bryan Bertino’s 2008 slasher/home invasion film The Strangers. Lastly, the scene when the Wilson family was forced to sit down and listen to what Adelaide’s double had to say was also quite spine-tingling due to Lupita Nyong’o’s fantastic demonic voice impersonation. For that performance alone, I believe Nyong’o deserves an Oscar nomination. After that scene though, I can’t put my finger on any other moment in the film where I felt truly terrified, so while this film certainly falls under the horror genre, I definitely would not say that this film was all that horrifying.

Another aspect of the film that was a bit too noticeable was how inconsistent and at times predictable and repetitive the narrative was. There were several moments in the film where Peele seemed to be directly alluding back to Get Out with things like the ever-elusive car keys, and the similar looking TV that is presented to the viewers at the beginning of the film. Yet there were other moments where Us felt more like a sequel to Get Out rather than its own project. Going back to that chilling scene with Nyong’o’s voice impersonation, the scene as a whole felt a lot to me like when Chris was getting hypnotised by Rose’s mother in Get Out. Especially when you can see very similar shots of tears falling from Chris and Adelaide’s eyes in each scene. And while I’m sure this was all intentional and that Peele meant to echo that scene, it all just felt a bit too repetitive and familiar at times, like I had already seen it before. With Us, I think I wanted to see a bit more newness from Peele rather than the same rehashed scenes. Another instance of this is when Zora’s double is hanging from the tree, and rather than finishing her off, Adelaide just stares at her and then just lets her die on her own. This was very similar to when Chris gets out of the car to watch that deer die on its own in Get Out, as well as when Chris is unable to kill Rose at the end of the film. And while I liked the message of the scene in that Adelaide saw too much of her daughter in the girl, it again just felt a bit too familiar to me.

In terms of the inconsistencies of the narrative, there were a few times where things just went unexplained, which disrupted the flow of the narrative for me. When Adelaide first calls the cops on the doubles in red, she tells her husband Gabe that they’ll be at the house in fourteen minutes. Yet from the time the doubles infiltrate to the house to the time Adelaide’s double sends the other doubles out to kill Adelaide’s family members, more than fourteen minutes have surely passed with no cops ever arriving at the house. Another moment in the film that bothered me a bit was how the Tylers’ doubles killed the actual Tylers so quickly and mercilessly, yet the Wilson’s doubles had to have this drawn out talk with the family before letting nearly all of them go to be hunted down unsuccessfully. The other aspect of the film that I never really understood and was expecting to get an explanation for and never did was Jason and his mask. I’m not sure if this was simply supposed to be Peele’s version of the popular horror film character “Jason” or something more meaningful, but we never really get a good explanation as to why he always has the mask with him. The white mask that Jason’s double wears to cover up his burnt face also seems to be a possible allusion to Bertino’s The Strangers.

In terms of predictability, there were a couple moments where the plot was just too predictable, and because of that predictability, the stakes never truly felt that high, which eliminated any sense of suspense. One of these moments was when Kitty Tyler’s double is about to murder Zora, and Jason comes from behind and bashes her on the head. Considering that Jason wasn’t anywhere to be seen until that moment, and the fact that I knew well and good that none of Adelaide’s family members were going to die, I was simply waiting for Jason to run in and save the day. The fact that it became so apparent that none of the family members were going to die was one of the things that troubled me most with this film. After Adelaide’s double finished talking to the Wilsons and sent Gabe’s double to finish off Gabe, I for sure thought that Gabe was going to be killed considering he was hobbling around on a battered leg. Yet once Gabe came out on top of that encounter, I just quickly got the sense that none of the other family members were going to die, which was another aspect of the film that I felt took away from the potential horror as a whole. Because every family member seemed to come out of every encounter with the doubles unscathed, there was never a point where I ever felt scared for the characters, because I knew that they would be alright because there were simply no high stakes. The only people that ended up dying were the Tylers and they always seemed like dying because they were the disposable family of the film. I’m not sure if Peele just didn’t want to kill off any of the black characters given how they’ve been treated in past horror films, but I felt like with none of them dying, the film went from potentially very scary to not scary at all very quickly. To be honest, I kind of wish Gabe was killed at the beginning as that would have at least kept me on the edge of my seat and made me fear for Adelaide or the kids’ lives.

Another aspect of the film that I found fairly predictable was the twist at the end when it is revealed that Adelaide is actually the doppelganger from the mirror maze. And while this twist made a lot of sense given Adelaide’s double’s ability to speak as opposed to the others, it was also a very predictable twist in my opinion. Throughout the film I had the sense that there would have to be some big reveal, and given that one of the parts of the film that had gone unexplained was what happened to Adelaide as a child in the mirror maze, I figured that it may be possible that Adelaide was really the doppelganger the whole time. This also made sense given how Adelaide as a child seemed to have so much trouble talking after that experience. And while this twist made sense, it really didn’t feel like a twist to me given that I saw it coming, as opposed to in Get Out when it turns out Rose is in on the entire scheme.

In terms of the overall message of the film, I again was really confused as to what Peele was going for with this film. Especially with the whole idea of people’s doubles “tethering” to each other all over the world, there definitely seemed to be some kind of message, but to me it really was not as transparent as it was in Get Out for example. I was also bewildered by the rabbits that are presented near the beginning and end of the film and what they’re supposed to represent. What perplexed me even more was how almost all the rabbits were white, but a few of them were brown, and I’m not sure if there was some significance with that. I think that it will likely take some research and further viewings to actually uncover what Peele was trying to say with this film. And this isn’t necessarily a knock on the film, but this was simply something that I felt Get Out did a much better job of.

Now while there were several aspects of the film that I thought could have been improved, there were still many things I liked about this film. For one, Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke had some fantastic performances. I’ve already said everything that needs to be said about Nyong’o’s performance, but Duke was also quite a joy to watch, especially when it came to providing the comic relief that can be seen in Get Out as well as the many Key and Peele sketches. One of the funniest parts of the film for me was when Duke’s Gabe tries to intimidate the doubles by turning up his “blackness” a couple notches. I also really liked the “I Got 5 On It” theme that was used throughout the film, though there were a few times where that song and a couple other songs were played when the Wilsons were inside the Tylers’ home, and the music felt as if it actually diminished the potential horror of those scenes. The cinematography of the film was also fantastic, and there were a couple scenes I remember that really stuck out to me as great. One of these was when the Wilsons were walking across the beach, and the bird’s eye view shot displays their shadows walking with each family member, symbolizing that their doubles are in fact very near. Another shot I really liked was when Zora’s double was standing on top of the Tylers’ car looking down at Zora. The low and high angle shots used in that scene were highly effective in portraying Zora’s double as this menacing figure. One more aspect of this film that I really liked was Peele’s use of synchronicities, specifically the number 1111, to convey that the doubles were nearing the Wilsons. As someone who experiences synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) quite a bit, this aspect of the film resonated with me quite heavily, and I was quite impressed that Peele was familiar with the idea of synchronicities and numerology. Peele actually plays with synchronicities in his new Twilight Zone series in the episode “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” as well.

All in all, while Us wasn’t exactly on par with Get Out in my eyes, it was still a very good film and I would highly recommend that you go out and see it. I think that I should also cut Peele a bit of slack considering that I’m pretty sure he was producing The Twilight Zone and this film at the same time, which is asking a lot of any director/producer. I also think that he had the idea for Get Out for a very long time before producing that film, so with all that being said, I think he did a more than admirable job with his sophomore film. For me, Get Out may be a top eight film all-time and a 9.5 or 10/10 for me, whereas Us still gets a strong 8.5. If you haven’t already started watching Peele’s The Twilight Zone and are a fan of the originals, then I would highly recommend that show as well. Though in my eyes Peele’s Us definitely could’ve been better, I without a doubt expect Peele to bounce back with another Oscar-worthy film of Get Out’s calibre in the next year or two.         

Final Rating: 8.5/10