Be warned: this trailer, in the contemporary manner, reveals a little too much. And yet, it doesn’t begin to show you where Jordan Peele’s new horror-movie goes….

Title: Us (2019)

Cast and Crew

Directed and written by Jordan Peele

Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson / Red
Winston Duke as Gabe Wilson / Abraham
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson / Umbrae
Evan Alex as Jason Wilson / Pluto
Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler
Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler
Madison Curry as Young Adelaide Wilson / Young Red
Ashley Mckoy as Teenage Adelaide Wilson
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Russel Thomas
Anna Diop as Rayne Thomas
Cali Sheldon as Becca Tyler
Noelle Sheldon as Lindsey Tyler
Napiera Groves as Dr. Foster
Lon Gowan as Don
Alan Frazier as Alan
Duke Nicholson as Danny
Dustin Ybarra as Troy
Nathan Harrington as Glen
Kara Hayward as Nancy

Premise:

Back in 1986, a little girl wanders away from her parents at the beach in Santa Monica, and encounters her duplicate in a House of Mirrors.

Decades later, she returns with her husband and children to the same location, where they meet the doppelgänger and her equally disturbed family.

The reunion, on the whole, goes rather poorly.

High Points:

Peele gets full credit for taking a bizarre horror premise, and letting it grow increasingly strange and unexpected, in ways that follow from the premise’s own internal nightmare logic. Perhaps the only thing not surprising is the final twist, which I have to imagine most viewers will see coming some ways off. I don’t see the fact as a flaw, particularly; it makes perfect sense, especially metaphorically and thematically.

The film asks us questions.

Are we who we think we are?

Low Points:

The explanation for the shadow people, necessarily incomplete, doesn’t really need to exist at all. I didn’t mind it, particularly, but Peele could have shown some restraint here.

I think it’s better to have us just accept an irrational premise and follow it, as most of this movie does. Better to have the audience wonder, “whence come the shadows?” than wonder how the explanation makes any kind of rational sense.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 The film echoes (often quite deliberately) things we’ve seen previously in horror movies and ancient myths. It’s a kind of Twilight Zone episode, and, in fact, expands upon the premise of an actual episode, “Mirror Image.” Nevertheless, the sheer bat guano craziness of the film means it has to score some points for originality.

Jordan Peele, of course, is a producer and host of the forthcoming Twilight Zone reboot. I think it’s in good hands.

Effects: 6/6

Acting: 6/6 The film demands a lot of the cast, and they deliver. Lupita Nyong’o is, by turns, compelling, engaging, and absolutely terrifying.

Production: 6/6 Few directors give as much attention to detail as Peele. Nothing gets wasted and, in a film so broad-ranging, his ability to create layers of meaning and internal echoes deserves applause.

Story: 5/6

Emotional Response: 6/6 The film has plausible characters, several frights, and a number of deliberate, uncomfortable laughs. Us also contains possibly the best use of a certain N.W.A. song, funny without taking us out of the film.

Overall: 5/6 Peele has penned a script fraught with potential disaster. One misstep could have reduced this film to nonsense.

In fact, we have a compelling horror movie with particular resonance at a time of such deep disturbing divisions in American society. The film certainly has race-related implications, but in a way that differs significantly from Get Out. Remove racial politics from Get Out and the story no longer exists. Remove them from Us, and the story would still unfold.

In total, Us receives 38/42

Final Thought

You know what’s creepier than seeing a horror movie about doppelgängers? Leaving a horror movie about doppelgängers, and immediately passing smiling, shining identical twin girls.