A couple of years ago Jordan Peele, known mainly as a comedic actor and part of the Key and Peele comedy duo, made his debut as a director with a movie called “Get Out.” That movie, while containing a lot of horror movie elements, also had some commentary on race relations in it.
Perhaps fearing being typecast as a director who always had to make a statement with his movies, Peele declared his next movie would be straight up horror. That movie is “Us,” and he wasn’t kidding.
“Us” was released to theaters in late March and is already hitting home video (does anybody doubt that one day theater and home video release dates will become the same day?) and to fully explain the movie would be giving away too much, and you don’t want to do that as you really need to have what’s happening unfold before virgin eyes.
But we’ll give it a shot. Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke play a married couple who are heading out for the annual family vacation at a California beach. The family is mother, father and daughter and son and things couldn’t appear more normal except that mom doesn’t like the beach and thinks their vacation home in a little cove is fine.
Something happened to mom at the beach in 1986 when she was around six or seven years old. She was there with her parents and wandered away and ended up in a house of mirrors where something happened. You’ll eventually learn what happened, and while you might guess part of it, you won’t get the whole picture.
Mom doesn’t want to go to the main beach, but she’s finally talked into it by Dad when he promises they’ll leave and be home before dark. They meet up with other friends at the beach and things seem all right, but Mom is paranoid and when her son disappears (he’s gone to the bathroom), she freaks out and demands they all go back to the vacation house.
That turns out to be a bad idea. Just as everybody is getting ready the son tells his family there’s another family in the driveway. Dad says that doesn’t make any sense but he looks out and there is indeed another family standing at the end of the driveway.
At first Dad thinks they might have trouble of some kind and he goes out and offers help. But they just stand in the dark, staring at him and he gets creeped out and goes back in. But he decides to go back out, with a ball bat, and tell them if they don’t leave he’s calling the cops.
This seems to enrage the man in the family and he charges toward the house. Suffice to say, the strange family makes its way into the house and the son, with a confused look on his face, points at the doppelgangers and says, “It’s us.”
And that’s about as far as we can go without giving stuff away. From there the movie becomes bloody, violent, confusing (until the end) and if you aren’t afraid of shiny, long metal scissors in the wrong hands, you will be after you watch this.
I will say the ultimate resolution would make a great conspiracy theory. And if you’ve forgotten “Hands Across America” in 1986 (an attempt to fight hunger), or weren’t around for it, it’s bizarrely brought back here.
Nyong'o and Duke do a good job as the parents, with Duke managing to convey some humor that doesn’t seem wildly out of place in a movie like this, but the real star here is Peele’s directing and writing. Peele, who also produced yet another reboot of “The Twilight Zone,” has a knack for these kinds of stories and you can feel the sure handedness and confidence in just about every frame of the movie.
With a budget of only $20 million and a world box office take of $253 million, it’s safe to say Peele will probably be allowed to do anything he wants for his next few movies. I, for one, can’t wait to see what he comes up with.