‘Us’ is another horrific hit from Peele
What is a doppelganger? If you don’t already know, don’t Google it until after you have seen Jordan Peele’s ‘Us,’ which could be subtitled ‘Watch Out For Strangers in Red?Suits,’ a carnival that has lots of rabbit holes, a prophetic Bible verse from Jeremiah 11:11 which concerns God’s promises to his ‘chosen’ people (Jews and Israel), and insinuations relating to that ‘It’ clown in the sewer.
It’s a simplistic opening premise: A family of some means heads for a Santa Cruz, California vacation but mom Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) is freaked – it’s near an amusement park where she had a horrifying funhouse experience finding herself about the time Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ was the buzz.
Hubby Gabe (Winston Duke) is giddy to escape the rat race; the two kids, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) seem unenthusiastic, especially Zora when her phone goes out.
Adelaide’s premonitions about an impending catastrophe (‘since we’ve been here, they’ve been happening’ consciousness) spoils their visit with the Tylers (played by Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali Sheldon and Noelle Sheldon).
By darkness, a family of four clad in red jumpsuits stands at the entrance roadway to the Wilson property. And by this time, mama has jerked our nerves after the family’s day at the beach.
Dad goes out to tell the mute dudes to move on. He’s a wimpy type. The second trip he brings a bat and two of the red jumpsuited sprint away. A horrific lengthy home invasion sequence ensures. That’s when the Wilsons learn that the red suits without masks are doubles of themselves.
By now the audience is stiff. shivering and stuck in their seats. You’re weirded out by psychological creeks and grabbed by knife wielding angry demon clones of the family. You have images that resemble actions by Charles Manson’s followers and Castro’s Cuba that have an eerie connection to mirrors (go stream Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode of ‘The Mirror’, concerning a Latin America revolution and tyrants, starring Peter Falk from October 1961 – just ‘fill their stomachs, they have short memories. You have your freedom. You have your life. Don’t throw them away.’) All kinds of thoughts purge and emerge during home invasion survival mode.
The cast does double (triple?) duty as the upper middle class African American family and their black-hearted clones, who initially resurrect memories of ‘Night of he Living Dead’ zombies or those invasive body snatchers from outer space virus carriers prompted by the writer/directors’ own youthful scares.
Peele has more than a psycho serial horror killer’s plot on his mind. Naturally (but broader), he’s stroking the race card (how many horror films have a token dark-skinned character that is the first to be wasted?) and the well-to-do Wilsons think about snubbing those not doing as well (a homeless person). Peele ensures we catch the symbols by the aforementioned prophetic Jeremiah Bible verse inserted to ponder on nearly perfect beautifully-flawed lives and the ‘what if,’ ‘what’s real,’ ‘what’s not’ collateral suspicions that take us into early M. Night Shyamalan (‘Unbreakable’) and Brian dePalma (‘Obsession,’ ‘Suspiria’) outings.
‘Us’ is an alarming metaphor for the worsening callous American caste systems. And the more it unreels, the more the viewer’s heart palpitates and you scratch your head.
Hint: Observe beyond ‘self.’ For all the ‘stuff’ you cherish, others don’t care about a ‘brand,’ they need shoes without holes which stay on their feet.
Tony Rutherford is a film reviewer for HuntingtonNews.net and a member of the Huntington Regional Film Commission.