Fright Fortnight: ‘Us’ – Jordan Peele’s masterclass in horror thriller

4 mins read

Jordan Peele has been rewriting the horror thriller since his directorial debut with ‘Get Out’ in 2017. Flashforward to 2019, and Us was in the cinemas, once again showing how it’s done.

When a family arrives at their lake house in Santa Cruz ready for their holiday, things take a sudden turn as a home invasion begins as they are terrorised by their demon doppelgangers known as ‘tethers’. 

The cast features Lupita Nyong’o as paranoid mother Adelaide, who had a traumatic experience as a child at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, and Winston Duke as her husband. Alongside their two children Zora and Jason, they fight to survive and discover more about their doppelgangers.

An incredibly suspenseful film throughout, the twists and turns are unrelenting. There is only moderate gore throughout, only ever used to shock the audience without being too intense or over the top. Unlike some thrillers, the twists are purposeful and make sense instead of just being for shock effect. 

Jordan Peele’s decision to only cast Black actors as his leads is one that has ruffled many feathers over the years in Hollywood. As a result, many of his films have been snubbed across the awards seasons despite having rave reviews and smashing the perspective of what a horror thriller is. Lupita Nyong’o failed to make the lead actress category at the Oscars for ‘Us’ despite giving not one but two show-stopping performances in the film.

“I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes, but I’ve seen that movie. It really is one of the best, greatest pieces of this story, is feeling like we are in this time – a renaissance has happened and proved the myths about representation in the industry are false.”

Jordan Peele

The best part of a Jordan Peele film is the ‘easter eggs’ to explore afterward. Everything is purposeful, which Peele put a large emphasis on in the interviews leading up to its release. 

Duality was a key component to the themes of the film. The doppelgangers were the obvious part, but references to Michael Jackson, ‘The Shining’, and did you count how many times the number 11 featured? 

An eerie focus on the scissors metaphor also played a part, which Peele confirmed with Entertainment Weekly: “There’s a duality to scissors — a whole made up of two parts but also they lie in this territory between the mundane and the absolutely terrifying.”

One of the most interesting decisions was to make the tether doppelgangers of Adelaide’s family portray racist stereotypes of Black people. The father’s doppelganger was quiet, slow, and aggressive, the daughter’s was an incredibly fast runner and the son’s was incredibly animalistic. 

Other decisions include giving an ode to the 80s, especially since the film jumps between that period of time and the present day. References to ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Goonies’ feature as well as some interesting soundtrack choices.  

Regardless of how many underlying messages you get while watching or not the film keeps you hooked the entire time even if it is through your fingers. Just make sure you watch till the end for that mind-blowing plot twist that makes you want to watch it all over again. 

Featured Image Credit: Claudette Barius / Universal Pictures

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Film, Media and Journalism student who writes about things that catch her interest. Instagram @charlsutcliffe

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