Movie Review: Us is Unusually Unsettling

Movie Review: Us is Unusually Unsettling
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Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Us is the kind of movie that does something for the reputation of horror films. Horror isn’t usually a genre known for its creativity and cleverness. It used to be before it was inundated with stereotypes, back in the days of Alfred Hitchcock.

There’s more than one similarity between the master’s work and Us. The way fear is infused into a story in lieu of jump scares and nauseating set pieces is a good start. The most striking point, however, is that the film tells an inarguably compelling story.

While Hitchcock’s work is a thing of past, that of writer and director Jordan Peele is not. His work is uncompromisingly creative, and his ability to build suspense and surprise is unparalleled. I’m not a fan of horror, but I am a fan of Jordan Peele.

His debut feature, 2017’s Get Out, was the best film of the year, and won Peele an Academy Award. This means the bar his sophomore film was going to be exceptionally high. And that, sadly, is where Us fails. It’s a good movie, but nothing more.

Almost any details about the plot could greatly risk spoiling what happens in the movie. What can be safely shared is this: a family is vacationing near Santa Cruz, California. On the first night of their vacation, four people who look strangely like each of them appears in the driveway. And that’s where things get interesting.

Photo: Universal Pictures

Star Lupita Nyong’o does double duty in her most intense role since 12 Years a Slave. She and the rest of the horrifying cast show some real talent and versatility on screen. Again, saying more could spoil the rightly kept secret on what makes the movie really twisted.

But there’s a glaring problem in Us – the entertainment value is often missing. Peele has envisioned a story and world that’s interesting and intelligent. There’s a lesson to be learned about responsibility and honesty. And the film is expertly produced.

But unlike the best movies, and especially horror ones, it only becomes enjoyable in the final, adrenaline pumping 30 minutes. The first hour is painstakingly slow, and instead of clues to solving the mystery, the first hour is a prolonged reveal to the finale.

That balance is not the proper way to set up a movie. But the astonishing end scenes are so good it’s almost worth waiting patiently until it’s time for the secrets to be spilled.

So strap in for the kind of Hitchcock horror that’s no going to jump up and scare you. This is the gradually creepy terror with psychological depth to it. And for modern audiences like us, that kind of courage of the movies is what we need for cinema to evolve.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars

14A, 1hr 56mins. Horror Mystery Thriller.
Written and Directed by Jordan Peele.
Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex and Elisabeth Moss.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.


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