I was captivated by Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, until it devolved into over-the-top horror film fare, spoiling the social commentary. Apparently, I was not alone in this and Peele decided his sophomore outing would be a straight on horror film, Us. When it opened, my students flocked to see it, many enjoying it, and several saying they needed to see it twice to fully appreciate it.
The film, from Universal Home Entertainment, is out on home video tomorrow, and I have to say, I don’t get the fuss. Once again, Peele layers in social commentary mixed with his horror tropes (a modern-day Body Snatchers?), but I was fairly bored for the majority of the film.
In short, your perfect nuclear family, headed by Lupita Nyong’o (in a part Peele wrote just for her) and Winston Duke, has their lives turned upside down when their home is invaded by red-tracksuited doppelgangers. We eventually learn that they are not alone and the local town is overrun with these silent, deadly clones.
It becomes a race for survival although there appears to be something personal between Nyong’o and her double, who she first saw in 1986. She (Madison Curry) was so traumatized, she fell silent for years, and today is uncomfortable in crowds and easily spooked. There’s also some odd connection between her son Jason (Evan Alex) and his double.
As in all good horror films, people make stupid decisions so at various points when the family could escape to safety, they chose the less obvious path, extending the threat.
As we learn, these are imperfect clones, dubbed the tethered, developed and raised by the government in some harebrained scheme to control the masses. Why they were allowed to remain alive is never addressed. Nor is there a hint of government response to any of this. Similarly, and in keeping in the horror tradition, our heroes appear to be the only ones to have survived their deadly encounter. In fact, there are lot so internal logic questions left dangling.
The cast is appealing as Duke and Nyong’o play parents nicely and it’s good to see Elizabeth Moss in something other than a red robe but I wonder why she took the role since there’s absolutely nothing to work with. She’s just the highest profile cannon fodder in the cast.
Apparently, people smarter than me have plumbed the film’s deeper meanings and what Peele is trying to say about ourselves, our psychological states, but nothing about why a republican wants to control its citizens. I think people want to see more in this movie than is really there. And then Peele pulls the rug out from under us with a reveal at the end that raises plenty of unanswered questions, but by then, I was done.
The movie is out in the usual assortment of formats including the $K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD combo pack. The film works very well in 4K as the 2160p digital transfer allows the deep shadows and figures running in the dark to look clear. The Dolby Vision color palette lets the limited color palette work just fine. Coupled with a fine Dolby Atmos sound track, the film will play nicely at home, spooking its audience.
The Blu-ray, by the way, is nearly as good so if you just get that, you’re fine.
The Special Features included don’t reveal as much as one would have hoped and are a fairly average assortment. We begin with The Monsters Within Us (4:45), examining the main family; Tethered Together: Making Us Twice (7:29, which touches on how the cast played two versions of themselves, aided by the crew; Redefining a Genre: Jordan Peele’s Brand of Horror (5:31), although I question if anything actually got redefined; The Duality of Us ( 9:56), with Peele admitting he’s scared of his own double; Becoming Red (4:09), shows Nyong’o getting into character; Scene Explorations – Seven Second Massacre (2:41), It’s a Trap (2:02), and I Just Want My Little Girl Back (2:53); Deleted Scenes (6:28); We’re All Dying (6:22), an extended beach scene; and, As Above, So Below: Grand Pas De Deux (5:02): Zora dances.