Arts

Film review: Us is a stylish home-invasion thriller that lacks the impact of Get Out

Allegorical horror Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele's follow-up Us is a stylish home-invasion thriller whose actual meaning is open to several interpretations, writes Damon Smith

Evan Alex, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong'o and Shahadi Wright Joseph in Us
Damon Smith

US (15, 116 mins) Horror/Thriller/Romance. Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon. Director: Jordan Peele

Released: March 22 (UK & Ireland)

IN HIS Oscar-winning horror Get Out, writer-director Jordan Peele took a magnifying glass to race relations and exposed ugly blemishes in the face of present-day American society.

For his eagerly awaited second feature, the film-maker holds up a mirror – literally and figuratively – and asks us to stare unblinking into the eyes of our distorted reflections.

Us is more bloodthirsty and physically punishing than its predecessor, obliquely referencing The Shining and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers as a family of four are held hostage by diabolical doppelgangers.

Peele's script is laboriously specific about the back stories of the lead characters but he is frustratingly ambiguous when it comes to burnishing the nuts and bolts of the social commentary underpinning the slaughter.

You can read this battle royale as an allegory about the oppression of an economic and political underclass, the fear of outsiders infiltrating our cosy suburban idylls or the war against terrorism.

Us is open to multiple interpretations, which should spark lively debate over the popcorn.

Viewed purely as a misfit member of the horror genre, Peele's picture is unsettling rather than white-knuckle terrifying and there are no conventional jump scares.

Every stab or slash is telegraphed and the script's coup de grace is evident by the chronologically fractured structure.

In 1986, when she was a little girl with pigtails, Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o) wandered into the Shaman's Vision Quest attraction at Santa Cruz amusement park during a thunderous downpour. She glimpsed something unspeakable in the hall of mirrors.

Fast-forwarding to the present, Adelaide is a fiercely protective mother to two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). "Stick with me and I'll keep you safe," Adelaide promises her boy.

She travels with husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and the kids to the family's beach house to reconnect with friends Josh and Kitty Tyler (Tim Heidecker, Elisabeth Moss) and their twin daughters (Cali and Noelle Sheldon).

Late one night, Jason interrupts his mother with disturbing news: "There's a family in our driveway."

Gabe attempts to scare away the four shadowy figures with chest-puffing bravado and a baseball bat.

His threats are hollow because the intruders are the Wilsons' gnarled, scissor-wielding doppelgangers, Red (Nyong'o), Abraham (Duke), Umbrae (Wright Joseph) and Pluto (Alex).

"Let's set some traps, some Home Alone-type stuff," suggests a panicked Gabe.

Us is a stylish home-invasion thriller, which lacks the persistent itch of Get Out after the end credits roll.

Nyong'o delivers tour-de-force performances that could earn her an Oscar nomination next year while Duke provides fleeting comic relief. Wright Joseph and Alex impress in support.

Composer Michael Abels appropriates the melody of hip hop duo Luniz's summer anthem I Got 5 On It as the discordant theme of his soundtrack, which underscores each twist in a tangled narrative.

Seeing is deceiving.

RATING: 7/10

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