Jordan Peele's Us Super Bowl Trailer

At the SXSW Premiere of US, director/writer/producer Jordan Peele reflected on going beyond the standard horror beats. “I love horror” he mused about the conventions of the genre and what inspires him. “At the same time, who cares?” he said to laughs.

This perfectly captures what US does: it’s a carelessness to how Peele approaches the story, but not in a lazy or disrespectful way. But rather, a lack of care to stick to what audiences expect from horror – and that makes for a sharp, funny and terrifying film.  

The film explores a Black family spending their summer vacation in Santa Cruz. The Wilson family – Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) – they are enjoying their time when a group of four dark figures approach their home. As the shadows get closer, the family comes to realize these shadows are actually doppelgängers who are tethered to our protagonists. After suffering for many years (for reasons that eventually come to horrifying light), the doppelgängers are finally here to be “untethered” – by any deadly means necessary.

Lupita Nyong’o in the dual role of Adelaide and Red (her doppelgänger) is a revelation – she pushes physical boundaries with this performance in a way that will haunt you in your sleep. Six years after her Oscar win, we are only scratching the surface of her range on screen and it’s exciting to see a glimpse here. Winston Duke as Adelaide’s husband Gabe handles Peele’s humor on script with a level of grace. He is recognizable and relatable as a corny dad, and brings a levity to the film that’s doesn’t stifle the terror. The children, Zora and Jason, also round out this family and the child actors are excellent in their roles as well. With such a weighty film, you need actors who can carry the load, especially playing two different roles in the same film. And these actors do it with ease.

US has many themes that emerge from the horror and hit the audience throughout the film, but the one that stands out the most is revolution. The family’s murderous doubles are fighting for a reason that eventually becomes all-too-clear. And it’s a powerful thought when you realize that the person leading this fight, this revolution, is a Black woman. Red is focused in her goals in a way that sometimes reads unhinged, but it’s due to the life she’s lived. The experience of “The Tethered” can easily be applied to the real-life plights of people from marginalized communities today. Peele confirmed that when making this film, he was inspired by what is happening in our country today and how “we fear the other.” When those of privilege have to confront those they’ve ignored, it can lead to explosive moments.

Themes aside, US still fully invests in the horror genre. Glimpses of The Shining, Black Swan and others show that Peele does his homework. The bloody violence, the tears, the screams, the jump scares – all familiar, but still done in a fresh way. If you thought that Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” was only for the trailer, rest assured it’s not. The way the song is used throughout the film, specifically for a major set piece later in the film, will have you looking over your shoulder next time it plays on shuffle.

US proves that Peele hasn’t experienced that typical sophomore slump. Like Get Out, the film takes horror to interesting and new heights by, above all, centering Black characters. Peele doesn’t care to do the same thing as others – and you shouldn’t expect him to.

/Film Rating: 9 out of 10

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About the Author

Joi Childs is a Brand Marketer, sarcasm enthusiast and film critic. You can find her on Twitter (@jumpedforjoi) tweeting about the intersection of marketing, nerd, and tech.