As I walked out of the theater, chills crept down my back, confusion filling my head. I glanced over my shoulder several times, making sure no one was behind me.
Every shadow in the dark parking lot was suddenly something I feared. My friends and I had just finished watching “Us,” and while we were terrified, we were also incredibly confused.
Coming off the success of “Get Out,” director Jordan Peele had a lot of pressure to produce something just as effective. While he tried to combine horror with several prominent political points, this film missed its mark.
“Us” starts off with a little girl, Adelaide, who gets split up from her parents at a carnival on the Santa Cruz boardwalk for 15 minutes.
Now, years later, that same little girl is all grown up with a husband and children of her own. Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family head back to Santa Cruz for a vacation with their friends, the Tylers and terrified Adelaide quickly begins to realize things are off.
By the end of their first night there, the family notices another family standing in their driveway: their doppelgangers. What ensues is a nerve-wracking game of cat and mouse as each family desperately tries to survive their own doppelganger.
The beauty of the first act is every single bit of dialogue from the first five minutes of the film plays a role in the movie later on. Adelaide’s daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), complains that her parents won’t let her drive.
However, when her parents are both injured later on in the film, it is Zora who has to drive the family to safety. Gabe (Winston Duke), Adelaide’s husband, gets made fun of by his friend Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker) for not having a flare gun in his boat whereas Josh does. This comes back when Gabe gets trapped in the Tylers’ boat and must use the flare gun to survive.
After killing off the Tylers’ doppelgangers, the family sits in their house and turns on the TV. On the news we see that there are thousands of doppelgangers holding hands across the Santa Cruz beach.
This is where the movie began to lose me. Jason (Evan Alex), Adelaide’s son, poses the question, “How many of every person is there?” This along with several other important plot details never gets resolved.
At the end of the film, Adelaide’s doppelganger gives a grand monologue that, while acted incredibly well, left me even more confused than before.
Peele also tries to connect the doppelgangers to the ‘80s charity event Hands Across America, but he fails to solidify what this is actually supposed to mean.
In addition, he repeatedly shows the Bible quote Jeremiah 11:11 throughout the film. Yet this too doesn’t ever tie back to any sort of concrete idea.
Some viewers have also speculated that “Us” really stands for U.S. and is reflective of the people who have been marginalized in society. However, we are never given enough details in the film to really conclude this.
While any one of these ideas could have had a powerful impact on the audience, Peele refuses to precisely define his message, relying on half-baked subtly instead. Trying to do them all left me unsatisfied and more confused than ever.
Peele’s first horror film “Get Out,” was able to brilliantly blend societal issues with horror. “Us”, while scary, tries to blend too many issues together, failing to provide viewers with a larger understanding of the film.