Jordan Peele's first film, 'Get Out' was an easy inclusion in my Top Ten Films of 2017. Here we have his second which, if not with quite the same ease of entry, might nevertheless just get into the lower reaches of my 'Most Liked'. If it doesn't I can't deny that I still found it, on the whole, darned good.
There's got to be an unavoidable comparison with 'Get Out', a film having an assured structure, with tension building up gradually from a seemingly innocent start to its spectacularly unexpected conclusion. On the other hand, with 'Us' we know from within the first few minutes that something is off-kilter and we don't have to wait long before full-blown horror is unleashed. Then for the remaining three quarters of the film the challenge is to maintain tension, which it does only with varying degrees of success. Once the box of tricks has been opened efforts to maintain interest can be self-defeating. Sure, there are surprises (as well as gore) aplenty but I personally found little to make me jump in my seat. And as for the final moments and what must have been intended as a shock revelation, well although I didn't see it coming, it didn't seem all that surprising - and one doesn't have to think deeply to realise that it throws up more questions than resolution. In fact much of the film seemed to indicate a sense that the director (who is also the story's creator) wasn't certain where to go with it next, and what the end was going to be, though I'm sure that wasn't the case.
There's a shortish, unsettling 'prologue' set in the mid-1980s which has a bearing on the film's conclusion. The main body of the film is present day with a family, father (Winston Duke) and mother (Lupita Nyong'o) and their teenage daughter and younger son who go on holiday to the beach resort of Santa Cruz, Ca. Settled into their holiday home, one night they have visitors standing silently in their dark garden, four people who ignore the warnings from the father to clear off. Soon and with mounting tension a direct, violent confrontation takes place with the four strangers breaking into the house, and their prey finding that these four red-overalled intruders are actually human replicants of themselves, at least physically, with some variation, but otherwise mentally the complete opposite. (The four actors playing the 'original' family duplicate their parts). I don't want to say anything further for fear of diluting the mystery. However, among all the many questions left hanging, two in particular trouble me - Why are the murder weapons of choice unfeasibly large and unwieldy pairs of scissors, more like garden shears, when a long knife would have been so much easier to handle and would do the required job at least as effectively? - And what's with all the rabbits? In a pre-opening-credits tableau we see stacks of them caged up individually, noses a-twitching - and then in a scene towards the film's conclusion we see dozens of them all running around freely indoors. What was that supposed to mean? Just because director Jordan Peele has gone on record saying that he finds rabbits to be creepy things does he think that we all do? Or should do?
During the course of the film when the horror is being laid on thick, while the basic family of four try to outwit and survive their would-be assassins, there are a number of short, humorous notes, both in the script and in action which, I thought, helped diffuse the high-level suspense quite effectively.
I don't intend to be ungenerous in having criticised the film for certain aspects but with Peele's first film having set such a high expectation, this second one of his ultimately doesn't reach the heights which 'Get Out' so magnificently scaled. If there hadn't been that first film then I've little doubt that I would have rated this higher. Having said that, it's still due for a fairly formidable........7.5.
(IMDb.................7.5 / 'Rotten Tomatoes' have changed their indication of audience rating in a way that makes comparison no longer easy).
3 hours ago