TOM TANGNEY

Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ has more on its mind than a few scares

Mar 22, 2019, 11:51 AM

“Us,” the new Jordan Peele film, is heady horror.

Like his first film, “Get Out,” it’s a horror film that has a lot more on its mind than a few scares. That’s not to say there aren’t more than enough frights and literal stabs of violence to satisfy horror fans. It’s just that ultimately, the film is less interested in shocking the nervous system than it is in stimulating the brain.

RELATED: ‘Five Feet Apart’ so baldly manipulative in the end

“Us” has a brilliantly simple and eerie premise that starts innocently enough.

“There’s a family in our driveway.”

That’s the young son of a family of four, the Wilsons, who are vacationing in a house near Santa Cruz. The family of four in the driveway is standing under a streetlight in the dead of night, not moving, not speaking. They appear to resemble the individual Wilsons, except for the fact they’re all wearing red jumpsuits. When the dad threatens the trespassers, they attack the house.

RELATED: ‘Glass’ takes itself far too seriously to take seriously

The Wilsons are dealing with their doppelgangers, their evil twins, their Mr. Hydes, their shadow selves. And this red family has deep-seated grievances with the Wilsons. For every positive thing that’s happened to the Wilsons in their lives, something correspondingly unfortunate has happened to the red family. In the course of the film, each family member will have to confront their darker self and either overcome it or succumb to it. It’s a battle to the end, and may not even be over by movie’s end.

This psychological dimension gradually gives way to a more sociological one. It turns out the Wilsons are not the only ones haunted by their red counterparts. In fact, there’s an entire underground of red-jumpsuited threats ready to stake their claim in the ultimate battle between the haves and have-nots, the privileged and the less privileged.

As the red mom sneers to the Wilson mom, “We’re humans, too.” They may be two bodies but they’re tethered by one soul. The Wilson mom forgets that at her own peril.

This is a thought-provoking film that raises more questions than it answers. Having only seen it once, I’m more than willing to acknowledge that everything I just said in the preceding paragraphs could be all wrong.

RELATED: How Tom Tangney voted for the 2019 Critics Choice Awards

It’s just my first best effort at making sense of a dense, funny, multi-layered film that’s exhilarating even when unclear.

The cast is excellent, especially Lupita Nyong’o as the Wilson mom and red mom. The guttural speaking voice that Nyong’o adopts for red mom is as creepy as creepy gets.

And finally, Peele is on record saying that, after all the attention that “Get Out” got, he wanted to make a horror movie that wasn’t about race at all. The Wilsons are an African-American family – the first-ever to be the central figures in a horror film, I think, but Peele succeeds in making their race more or less incidental to the film. If he skewers whites and liberals in “Get Out,” he goes after all of us in “Us,” whites, blacks, Americans, and anyone else who claims to be human.

Tom Tangney on KIRO Radio

Tom Tangney

Last Duel...
Tom Tangney

Poor Marguerite’s story saves ‘The Last Duel’

Tom Tangney says, ultimately, The Last Duel is a proto-feminist take on the Middle Ages with Marguerite's take that brings the film into focus.
4 days ago
James Bond...
Tom Tangney

Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie comes full-circle

The 25th installment in the James Bond movie franchise may be titled "No Time to Die," but "Too Much Time to Die" may be more fitting.
12 days ago
Egyptian Theater...
Tom Tangney

Seattle’s Egyptian Theater hosts SIFF’s first ever documentary film festival

Seattle's Egyptian Theater is hosting SIFF's first ever documentary film festival. Dubbed DocFest, the weeklong festival features 13 separate titles.
19 days ago
...
Tom Tangney

A letter: ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ the movie

Dear Evan Hansen, The Movie: I'm sorry I didn't like you as much as you wanted me to. I tried, I really, really tried.
25 days ago
nine days...
Tom Tangney

‘Nine Days’ is about as life-affirming a movie as there can be

Nine days to live. That's the premise of this new, refreshingly original movie called "Nine Days." But that premise is not what you think.
2 months ago
stillwater...
Tom Tangney

‘Stillwater’ does not run deep enough

Written and directed by Oscar-winning Tom McCarthy, 'Stillwater' is a contemporary story about a father's attempt to free his daughter from a French prison. 
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ has more on its mind than a few scares