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  Us The Replacement KillersBuy this film here.
Year: 2019
Director: Jordan Peele
Stars: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Anna Diop, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon, Madison Curry, Ashley McKoy, Napiera Groves, Lon Gowan, Alan Frazier, Duke Nicholson
Genre: Horror, Weirdo
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o) was a little girl in 1986, she attended a carnival on Santa Cruz beach, California, with her parents. Her father won her a prize in a sideshow, so she picked the T-shirt emblazoned with Michael Jackson's Thriller video, which her mother was concerned would give the child nightmares. But what actually changed her personality was when she wandered off on her own, into the night. Once on the beach itself, she happened upon a kind of hall of mirrors with a scary twist, the twist being that one of her reflections was not facing her - until it turned around. This memory has haunted Adelaide ever since, so returning there on vacation is not to pleasant...

Call it difficult second album syndrome, but although writer and director Jordan Peele saw his second film at the helm a huge hit at the box office, it did not meet the same acclaim as his first, Get Out, had, with the critics or audiences. They complained it just did not make enough sense and was full of plot holes, while those who were regarding it emanating allegorical choices were disappointed when they did not entirely add up to create something as pointed as that award-winning debut. Yet Us did have its fans, precisely for the reasons so many took against it: it sustained its mysteries, it was as bizarre a big budget movie as had come along in years, and it was not your best friend.

Peele said he wanted it to be a horror movie above all, and it did come across as something the nineteen-eighties might have dreamt up as a feverish variation on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the original template for the evil double plot that had spread like wildfire across genre items for decades. But it was so difficult to ignore how Get Out had been as much a satirical message film, maybe more, as it was a chiller, that Peele was on a hiding to nothing requesting audiences approach it as a nightmarish thrill ride, like the ghost train the carnival at the beginning might have featured, for it was simply too tempting to try and discern where the authorial voice was going.

That title, for a start, suggested the current political and social climate the world, not merely The United States, was labouring under was the actual target of the piece, though even that did not wholly add up, as this was no jigsaw puzzle of a story where the bigger picture would be clear once the puzzle was solved. This appeared to be a conscious decision, either to render the film, if not all things to all people, then a certain thing depending on what you took to it, be that bafflement or a genuine enjoyment that something this nutty could have been produced in Hollywood for the mass market. Usually a quirkfest such as Us would be relegated to lower budget ambition - see how Sorry To Bother You fared, a comparable slice of African American inspired storytelling on this scale of conceptual bravery.

To say too much about that plot would be to give away surprises that ironically may turn many viewers away from Peele's project, but even if you did not go with it right to its Twilight Zone-esque twist ending, you may find something to appreciate on the journey. Nyong'o was well and truly the star of the show here, as far as acting went, committing to the Bizarro World premise and shading her performance far more than maybe was necessary, but was welcome nonetheless, and she was supported by a cast who were clearly having fun with their roles, spreading their wings to go to places their previous jobs had not allowed them to. Was this a commentary on humanity's great self-sabotage? Its apocalyptic mood indicated it was, and the conclusion that we could endure, just not in a particularly pretty manner was perhaps more chilling than any of the slasher flick shenanigans that preceded it. If you were no fan of movies that went the extra mile to take chances, this would turn you off within minutes; more adventurous souls would embrace its wild, risky, ridiculous madness. Music by Michael Abels.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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