Comedian Jordan Peele turned filmmaker with his stellar social satire Get Out back in 2017, and he returns to the director’s chair for doppelgänger horror Us. As a child, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) has a traumatic experience in a hall of mirrors after wandering away from her parents at Santa Cruz beach. Years later, she revisits the boardwalk with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two kids. The fun family vacation soon descends into terror when their beachhouse is invaded by unwelcome guests.
This is obviously a horror movie carefully crafted by a horror movie fan, and Peele has no qualms about wearing his influences proudly on the frames of the film. His script is peppered with witty pop culture references and there are strong visual nods to genre classics such as Jaws and The Birds, and even Michael Jackson’s famous Thriller music video. On the surface, it’s a solid effort that makes good use of its stylish soundtrack and score to build suspense and implement jump scares into the complex narrative, but it’s too often bogged down in heavy-handed subtext. With multiple metaphorical themes at play, the story is simply overstuffed with ideas much to its detriment, and the overarching message becomes somewhat muddled.
Peele has bitten off more than he can chew with Us which suffers from the cinema equivalent of ‘second album syndrome’. Though it’s always refreshing to see a writer-director with such ambitious visions, and Lupita Nyong’o is great in the complicated central role, the film ultimately falls foul to its own convoluted high-concept, sending Peele into a sophomore slump.