Published on March 20th, 2019 | by Michael Newman0
We’ve all heard that somewhere out in the world there is a true Doppelganger for each and every one of us. An almost exact copy which may not behave the same but would otherwise be indistinguishable from the other. In a common instance a Doppelganger might be a set of identical twins who share the same DNA, or in pop culture references we might look to the definition of a Doppelganger in Dungeons and Dragons, defined as a monstrous humanoid able to change the shape and read the minds of their intended target to mimic them completely. Somewhere in the middle is where Jordan Peele’s latest masterpiece takes us.
The film begins in the mid 80’s, when Michael Jackson’s Thriller is topping the charts and Hands Across America was a very real idea (worth looking up for younger readers who may not even know what I’m talking about). A young Adelaide Wilson is exploring the boardwalk on a beach in Santa Cruz with her parents. When her father is distracted by a game of Whack a’ Mole something draws Adelaide down to the beach where she passes a man holding a sign referencing Jeremiah 11:11, one of the first messages that foreshadows what is to come. On the beach she encounters an empty and sinister looking hall of mirrors attraction. Wandering through the hall of mirrors a young Adelaide encounters a girl in the mirror, an exact duplicate of herself whose encounter is so traumatic that it leaves her unable to speak.
The film transitions to present day where the now adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is traveling with her husband Gabriel (Winston Duke) and her two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and youngest son Jason (Evan Alex) to her parents’ home near the beach in Santa Cruz. Adelaide has resisted going back to the very same boardwalk where she had encountered her doppelganger as a young child. With her husband and children pressing her to go to the beach, she reluctantly agrees as long as they promise to be home before dark. The day at the beach is relatively uneventful until it is nearing time to go home and the family has lost sight of young Jason. Adelaide in a panic frantically searches for him, finally finding him returning from the bathroom.
The incident, while minor, convinces Adelaide that they should never have come back and wants to leave immediately. Various subtle “coincidences” occur that leave her feeling as though a black cloud hangs over her and a sense of dread that something terrible is about to happen. Before the family turns in for the evening, Jason sees “A family” at the edge of their driveway. Gabriel attempts to get to the bottom of who these mysterious visitors are, only for a night of unimaginable terror to ensue.
Us takes queues from several other movie types, The Strangers, Night of the Living Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatchers mashing them together to weave its frightening (and often funny) tale. It takes a little time to gain momentum, but once it does It never once lets off the gas. While at first it seems nothing more than a home invasion from characters who look exactly like the Wilson family, it quickly grows into something substantially more terrifying. The backdrop varies between a somewhat isolated house in the woods, to the bustling beach, giving a sense of isolation even at the most crowded of places. The boardwalk is a place that is both wonderous and terrifying at the same time, reminiscent of the early scenes in the 80’s classic The Lost Boys. While lacking in both clowns or vampires, it holds its own secrets (and terrors).
Us is a movie that is unlike any other and is refreshing when stacked against similar fright films that have been released recently. If you are a fan of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, you will find a lot to like here as well. It maintains its dark humor without ever going over board and has plenty of thrills and scares to keep you on your toes at all times. It’s not a movie that will keep you up all night hiding under your covers, but it may cause you to rethink your next vacation to the beach or the boardwalk. In the end, I feel this is another film that is sure to become a cult classic, enjoyable for fans of the genre.
4 out of 5 stars