Jordan Peele’s Get Out was one of the surprise successes of 2017. The movie packed theaters, scared audiences, impressed critics, and earned Peele an Academy Award. Unfortunately, this success is a double edge sword. After all, when you have made an era defining movie what do you do for an encore?
The initial trailer for Us was met with great fanfare. Fans (myself included) we’re excited and could not wait to see what Peele would bring next. Initial box office reports are the movie’s opening weekend will be record setting. Peele has another success on his hands and it is not a stretch to say many saw Us due to the success of Get Out. And therein lies the potential problem.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to see the latest film from a director you like. This sense of familiarity is comforting and gives an idea of what to expect. There is a reason reason marketing boldly states “from the director of…” Movies are easier to see now than they every have been, but they are either expensive or time consuming. Most people will go with what they know rather than the risk the unknown.
The issue begins when we forget that directors adding a signature style to their films does not make those movies directly comparable. Wanting to see Us because you enjoyed Get Out is understandable. Going in and expecting to see more of the same is asking to be disappointed. It is not unheard of for directors to stick with a proven commodity, but Peele has done something different. And it would be especially bad to dismiss what he has done since his sophomore effort is such a good movie.
The horror of Get Out is based around the film’s strong social commentary. We are as disgusted as we are frightened. The film was topical and powerful. Us is also a multilayered movie, but it scares are of the more traditional variety. The terror here is found in its fight or flight situations and monstrous antagonists. The message is just as interesting, but it is also less visceral.
Us also boasts strong performances. Most notably, Lupita Nyong’o is tremendous in her role as Adelaide. Adelaide goes through a series of emotions that Nyong’o plays perfectly. Most importantly is the fear of the unknown. In many horror movies, the main character is suddenly brave enough to overcome the Big Bad. While, she is a powerful heroine, Adelaide is also unafraid to show vulnerability. She is incredibly relatable, which only strengthens the film.
The movie has a great soundtrack that may also get overlooked. Peele’s use of music that clashes with scenes is excellent and his choices for some scenes is inspired. Us also features some very witty dialogue that never feels forced. The movie flows at a nice pace that allows every moment to feel impactful. Peele does a great job of manipulating audience emotions.
Not every movie Jordan Peele writes has to have a deep social message. It is not bad if he makes a movie that delivers a message that is a little more personal. Thanks to some strong storytelling and acting, Us does just that. Unfortunately, the shadow cast by Get Out is a long one. Early box office returns seem to show people are willing to watch it, but time will tell if they give Us a chance.