FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Us

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) and Winston Duke (Black Panther) star in Jordan Peele’s (Get Out) 2019 doppelganger chiller Us. Warnings of underground unknowns, VHS, retro boob tubes, and ye olde 1986 commercials for Hands Across America set the scene before Santa Cruz carnivals, Thriller t-shirts, dark beaches, thunderstorms, and funhouse horrors. Her parents’ banter was already strained before the trauma, and the now-adult Addy hasn’t told her husband of the experience, either. They return to her family home, but their daughter’s too busy with her phone, the son’s really too old to be playing with toys, and her oblivious to her discomfort husband wants to keep up with the Joneses with a cool boat. The spooky basement, cabinets big enough to hide in, and mirrors with reflections that seem to look back at you lead to the same eerie funhouse, crazy beach folk, repeated twin moments, elevens, jinx, and double jinx. Peering through dark windows and talking with your back to a person layer visuals and dual suggestions while our husband jokes about what was in the hall of mirrors coming to get Addy and their rich white friends remain out of touch snobs more interested in alcohol and plastic surgery. Our Mr. thinks he can handle trespassers with threats and a baseball bat, but power outages and unresponsive lookalikes banging at the door make for a fearful home invasion. This unarmed, mid-century beach house and its many windows aren’t exactly secure, and the entire break-in happens in real-time without frenetic cameras and zorp boom music. Croaking, unaccustomed to speaking accounts tell tales of the tethered and shadowed receiving pain below while we have light and warmth above, and each of the underground confronts their compatriots with disturbing torments, freaky pursuits, and mimicking pantomime. Ironic Beach Boys cues and sardonic smart home devices are no help at all! Addy starts timid, but this threatened mother turns badass, angry, and desperate to save her son as the bizarre deaths and replacement reveal escalate with distorted reversals, fractured experiences, and not quite right through the looking glass. The timely titular we and the American initialization mirror the united privileged for some but underbelly torment for many. We kind of know what’s going in here and the wither to and why fros aren’t as important as the underlying social statements. However, drawn-out, unnecessary moments, and repeated, uneven showdowns make this a little long. Chases, defeats, and hard violence are easy or contrived depending on if the tethered is conveniently primitive and animalistic or agile and adapt as needed. Elaborate underground talk and random fights don’t explain how big this takeover is. Police are called but never arrive, both a horror trope as well as a commentary on the system, but the supposedly self-aware genre send-ups make characters stupid or erroneously humorous. Homages don’t upend but play into the horror cliches as car keys are forgotten, no one worries about food or weapons bigger than a fireplace poker, and they get out of the car in the middle of the woods. And how did they get so many pristine, matching underground supplies? The final act explanations and intercut dance parallels descend into stereotypical horror with quick editing and that obnoxious Zorp boom music, but with so many great things here, there’s no need for generic horror designs. There are flaws, the audience must take a lot of leaps, and final twists should have been told in the big reveal rather than montaged at the end. Our writer/director/producer needed a tighter edit in the last act, but the excellent foreshadowing, dual visuals, and social commentary make for repeat viewings and scary entertainment.

2 thoughts on “FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Us

  1. “Zorp Boom Music!” LOL Yes, it is annoying. I enjoyed that review, maybe more than I would the movie. I’ll still watch it, when I get a Round Toit. I had one, years ago, but I seem to have misplaced the darn thing. 😉

    By the way, it only just now registered on my poor antiquated brain that the first image in your banner is of French silent movie actress Musidora as Irma Vep in Les Vampires, the 1915 serial. Have you ever addressed it and/or her in a column?

    Liked by 1 person

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