I will try to keep my Impressions mostly spoiler-free until the end. I will mark where the major spoilers start
So I was pretty excited to get to see Us. The trailers were rather compelling to me, and Jordan Peele does seem like one of the most promising voices we have in horror right now. While the details were limited there were hints of what we could expect.
I will keep plot lines and summary to a minimum because I believe that the movie should be seen with limited expectations. I will confirm what we have seen in trailers, that Adelaide and Gabe (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) take their children on a family vacation. At some point, a family arrives outside of their home and after breaking in the son rightfully says “it’s us”. From there we follow Adelaide as she tries to keep her family safe with many twists, turns, and horrific scenes.
The movie is well crafted, it does not take long to get the sense that there is something else going on, but it does not just force it on the audience. We find out what is happening and who this family is slowly and naturally as Adelaide and her family does. I rather like this style of storytelling. While I think there is value in films that give the audience more knowledge than the characters. I find with horror, especially horror that is emphasizing suspense, that the audience knowing as little as the characters works to the movie’s advantage. It is extremely rare that the audience leaves the POV of Adelaide and her family, so we are rarely told things that they are not. This also makes for good pacing which is so important in the horror genre.
Aside from being well written in how the story plays out there is also a good blend of humor and horror. The start of the movie has a lot of humor, and it helps the audience to get attached to Adelaide’s family effectively. They are a lovely family, and you want them to be alright, so it hurts to know what genre they are in. Even once the horror starts though the humor doesn’t wholly fade, though is incredibly toned done. The movie does know when to give the audience a break from the intensity and allow us to laugh a little, and because the family dynamic has already been so humorous before it works right in later.
The scares are also solid. The movie, as mentioned, is more of a suspense heavy experience, but it does bring a decent amount of gore, and even a few jump scares. I will say that it is not the scariest movie I have ever seen, but it is solid as far as horror is concerned. It is also incredibly uncomfortable at several moments which can be a more effective type of horror at times.
The acting is on point, and the actors managed to nail scenes that significantly amped up the creepiness level of the experience. The soundtrack is effectively used, and the sound design itself is fantastic. Beyond that, though one of the things that stood out to me the most about this movie was the cinematography and how compelling and well done so many of the shots were. This movie has some amazing moments to look at. I was in awe several times and honestly, just want to look at the movie again.
There is also a lot I could say about the social commentary at play. As well as the nods and references to other horror movies. For the sake of keeping this from getting to be too long, I will simply say both are present and excellent.
So bottom line? I think the movie is worth the hype personally. I do understand that it is different than some people might have imagined just based on the trailer, but I would also say the trailer was purposely short on information. The story is good, the scares are there, the acting is excellent, the suspense and pacing are on point. It’s a great damn horror experience. I would honestly recommend it to almost any genre fan. I think some will like it as much as I did and others less, but I have a hard time seeing a horror fan that would not enjoy the experience at all.
There is some trickiness with the ending so from here we will move on to the next part of my Impressions.
Warning Major Spoilers to Follow Please Do Not Read On if You Have Not Seen the Movie and Want to
I did want to go into more detail about my questions about the ending. I want to be clear, I think the ending is good and serves the movie well; however, I do see the merit in questioning whether or not it was the best choice.
In the end, we discover that “Adelaide” throughout the movie has actually been the tethered version “Red”, and that she had overpowered the girl and taken her place in childhood. It is not the most shocking twist ending (especially given they kind of spoiled it in the trailer, but that is a rant for another time), but it’s enough to make an impact. There are hints and pieces to get you there, and the context of much of Adelaide’s behavior throughout the movie makes more sense once you know the twist. She was mute after the incident, not because she was traumatized but because she was learning. When she seems almost feral at one point, it’s because the mask is slipping so to speak, and her tethered nature is coming out. Adelaide shows compassion and sadness over losing her tethered children. There are other hints throughout that lead you to question who is Adelaide and who is Red, and it works well. It’s clever and smart, but…
Now I am not going to get into the plot holes presented by the fact that Red took Adelaide’s place, I think the lack of detail over the tethered and the fact that their connection is unique covers it enough to satisfy me.
I do wonder if the symbolism is best served by the twist. Say that Red had not switched with Adelaide, it would make the fact that Adelaide starts to act more and more like Red have a pretty strong impact. It would say that the tethered and the above ground people are not that different. Adelaide becomes feral like the tethered and even mimics some of Red’s attacks and style not because they had switched places, but because the line between the two groups is that thin. That being pushed to save her family made Adelaide more like her tethered counterpart. It could have been a compelling moral to the story.
I can see the value in both endings for entirely different reasons, and they could hit a lot of the same highs and lows. Her son Jason does not trust her, and in either ending this works. Both would have plot holes that would have to be explained by again simply not understanding how the tethered work (which once again I am fine with). Adelaide and Red, both showing compassion and hatred in equal parts, would hit either way. I think I might have preferred the movie without the twist, but I think Jordan Peele had his reasons for making the movie the way he did. I do believe that it will be something that horror fans are likely to discuss for years to come.