Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ thrills and chills

Essence BoydCopy Editor

If you have yet to see Jordan Peele’s Us, head to the closest theater and go find yourself. The nightmare reveals just how sinister the monster in the mirror can be. When the Wilson’s family returns to their vacation home in the beautiful beach town of Santa Cruz, Calif. after years of absence, they learn just that.

The film begins in 1986, the year of Hands Across America -a fund raising event that intended to create a tethered human chain from coast to coast- and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Young Adelaide (Madison Curry) is shown at the Santa Cruz pier with her estranged parents when she wanders off to the dreaded house of mirrors. As mentioned in the opening credits, there are miles of abandoned tunnels and passageways underground which have no known reason. Once in the life changing house, Adelaide finds out just what the purpose of the tunnels are when she encounters her doppelgänger for the first time.

After making contact, the audience is made to believe Adelaide returns to her parents, who believe being lost has traumatized her as she refuses to speak. However, you learn later in the movie that they couldn’t be any more wrong. The movie then fast forwards to the present day and shows even though she has left the beach, Adelaide has yet to escape her haunting past.

Like in “Get Out”, Peele uses multiple forms of foreshadowing to inform viewers of the dangers that are yet to come. From abnormally large shadows to daunting background music, Peele plants subtle clues along the way to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Now a mother, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband Gabriel (Winston Duke), their phone zombie of a daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and magician wannabe son Jason (Evan Alex) return to Santa Cruz in hopes of enjoying a normal family vacation. However, a day at the beach confirms Adelaide’s worst nightmare: what she has been running from all these years is finally beginning to catch up to her. After continuous coincidences, the Wilsons are forced to confront what Adelaide has been avoiding when the family’s doppelgängers appear in their driveway with murderous intentions. Once the bad dad jokes run out and Zora looks up from her phone, the untethering finally begins.

The doubles or Tethered, force their way into the Wilsons’ home and reveal who they are – a government experiment left to rot underground- “Americans” and what they want, is everything. This scene has to be the most disturbing of them all; the two worlds finally collide and you’re left looking into the same deranged hall of mirrors Adelaide found herself in 32 years ago.

A black film would be nothing without numerous biblical references and Peele does not hold back with his countless references to Jeremiah 11:11, which reads, “Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” The number can be spotted on signs, clocks, and even the final getaway vehicle.

The most memorable and remarkable roles played in the film are by doppelgänger son Pluto (Evan Alex) and once lost but now found doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong’o). After seeing this movie, you will not be able to get Red’s suffocating voice or Pluto’s dog-like abilities out of your mind. Throughout the remainder of the movie the Wilsons battle to kill the mass of silent doppelgängers and remain the superior family leads to them encountering multiple hiccups along the way.

Peele uses his comedic history to creatively tether the DNA of pop and American culture into the film without being cliché. Despite being the same theme for his prior film “Get Out”, Peele denies any correlation to racism in “Us”. Even though Peele depicts the Wilsons as an educated and well-off black family, they still do not measure up to their wealthy white counterparts, the Tylers. What the Wilsons lack in money they make up in resilience, as they stop at nothing to remain above ground.

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