Shadow selves

Jordan Peele's second thriller film has great potential, but poor execution

Us (2019) UIP Thailand

I wanted so badly to like Us, the second directorial effort by the rising American director Jordan Peele. The movie has so far been receiving quite positive reviews from critics everywhere, largely because Peele's first film, Get Out, was one of the most beloved releases of 2017.

Get Out has really set a new standard for the mystery and thriller genres, with unique, suspenseful storytelling that is intense from start to finish, cleverly addressing racism with sharp humour. So I instantly became a fan of the director, and was really looking forward to finding the same thing in Us.

But it turned out that Us is a different beast altogether, both in genre and in overall tone. While Get Out was such a neat and compact thriller film with a plot that has a clear point of view, Us is all over the place.

The plot of the story centres on the life of Adelaide (Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o), who has horrific memories of her childhood. The film's prologue shows her in 1986, a young girl whose distracted father lost track of her at a beachside amusement park. She wandered into the mirrored funhouse by the beach, and there witnesses something that haunted her for life -- or at least for a very long time.

Fast-forward into the present, with Adelaide grown up to be a wife and mother of two. Her family decides to spend a vacation in Santa Cruz, California, the same place from which her terrified memories have come back for her. Before long, the family confronts a group of mysterious doppelgängers who show up uninvited in their driveway.

And from there, Jordan Peele unspools a story of these shadow, or clone, people, long forced to live underground but now marching to the Earth's surface to claim, violently, what they feel is rightfully theirs.

The film starts out very slowly, in order to let the scary atmosphere creep in bit by bit, and keeps us guessing why these shadow people are attacking, or where they are from. So we are led from almost the beginning to want those answers, and when they're actually delivered, it's somehow dull and unsatisfying.

There are way too many plot holes and unanswered questions in Us. For example, other than for symbolism, why would these doppelgängers from the underworld choose golden scissors as their weapon? Or why are they dressed up in red jumpsuits that remind us of metal band Slipknot? And if their plan were to kill the upstairs people and then hold hands across America, then what? The absence of motivation is very messy and ultimately ruins the conclusion, as you don't care when the plot twist does arrive.

Us isn't necessarily a terrible movie. It's still an enjoyable horror film with decent humour and a great soundtrack. I would recommend this movie to casual horror fans, but don't see it expecting anything like Get Out.