Us: A Film Built For Conversation


Aaron O'Neil, Author

Jordan Peele’s second film, Us, shows a unique horror experience with underlying messages throughout. The film itself is great, though it’s obvious that more effort went into the messages of the film than the plot.

Us was released on March 22. In its first weekend at the box office, it grossed $70 million, making it the second biggest launch of 2019, right behind Captain Marvel. It has broken the record for an original horror film, surpassing The Quiet Place, and for an R-rated film, surpassing Ted, according to Variety.

Us stars Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide, the mother of the main family the film follows, and an alternate version of the mother, Red. She delivers an excellent performance in both roles, making viewers feel either empathetic or horrified. The rest of the family, played by Winston Duke, Evan Alex, and Shahadi Wright Joseph, all deliver almost equally great performances though Lupita is the focus throughout the film.

Us follows the family on a summer vacation in Santa Cruz. But of course, as all horror films go, things go downhill as the family has to fight for their lives against evil versions of themselves. The premise itself is unique and something viewers have probably never seen in a horror film. The bizarre premise helps as it makes the audience curious about the circumstances this family has found themselves in.

Unfortunately, Us doesn’t necessarily answer the questions it brings up in a direct and satisfying way. But it doesn’t take away from the movie as the performances, attention to detail, and hidden messages make up for it.

Us has incredible attention to detail that could go unnoticed while watching the film if you’re too distracted by the horror. A lot of details you need to think about after watching the movie, and it makes it so much more satisfying seeing the film really come together. For example, a lot of foreshadowing at the beginning of the film takes the form of jokes and dialogue between the characters.

Half the enjoyment of the film probably comes from the discussion with others who’ve seen it afterward, as everyone has their own details they noticed or their own interpretation of the story. Some viewers might notice a lot of details, while others might be too captivated by the rest to pay attention.

One of the biggest parts of Us is the underlying messages and symbolism beneath the plot. I tried to apply [the] idea of duality to everything in the film,” Peele said. “I think one of the reasons this movie has an expansiveness is because ‘us’ is subjective. Everybody thinks of the term ‘us’ in different ways — it can be ‘us’ the family, ‘us’ the town, ‘us’ the country, ‘us’ humanity.”

Peele was well known as a comedian before he surprised everybody in 2017 with his horror film Get Out, a psychological thriller.

It’s obvious that Peele has laid hidden messages throughout the film, and in realizing what those hidden messages are — or what the messages mean for you — the film becomes even more enjoyable and makes you want to watch it again just to look for the details or think about the messages in a different way.

At the end of the day, Us isn’t for everybody. It definitely requires a certain type of viewer, one who is willing to ignore some of the plot and find their own meaning. Or, if you don’t even want to think about deeper messages or themes, you can enjoy Us as just a horror/thriller flick. It’s really just as enjoyable either way, depending on what you want from the experience. But if you’d rather have a perfectly thought out plot and backstory delivered to you directly, you might want to skip this one.