The new master of suspense
By Aaron Reynolds
4 out of 5 Stars
While there have been a number of influential filmmakers in the short history of cinema, one could argue no one continues to have such a profound impact and gets initiated as often as Alfred Hitchcock.
The man who was nicknamed “The Master of Suspense” completely transformed what it meant to produce a psychological thriller and continues to serve as the framework for what makes a great horror or suspense picture.
Yet like most legends, there are several who have attempted to become the next Hitchcock, though few have actually delivered. Jordan Peele, as unassuming as his accession to the horror genre has been, is arguably one of the most deserving of the Hitchcock comparison in quite some time.
Peele, like Hitchcock, took an unusual route to becoming a recognizable name in the horror and suspense genre. He was first a cast member on the skit comedy show “Mad TV” and then really caught the public eye with the sketch comedy “Key & Peele.”
When it seemed destined the writer/director/actor would make his mark in comedy, not horror, Peele introduced audiences to his directorial debut “Get Out,” a 2017 film that received widespread critical acclaim and Oscar nominations.
“Get Out” was a shocking success and has helped pave the way for the much anticipated “Us,” which arrived in theaters last week.
Though the horror genre has suffered miserably for decades now with cheap thrills that rely on jump cuts and other easy, predictable means to produce shock – Peele is a throwback writer and director known for interjecting social commentary into his horror projects that rely far more on psychological discomfort.
His throwback style is evident in “Us,” and refreshing for those who are desperate for a contemporary version of Alfred Hitchcock.
It tells the story of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), a young woman with a complicated past and unresolved trauma that has been compounded by a string of eerie coincidences. The series of unexplainable episodes in her life have contributed to heightened paranoia and the worry something awful is going to befall her family.
The fears are confirmed one evening when Adelaide returns to her family at their vacation home only to witness a group of doppelgangers waiting for her arrival.
“Us” has the kind of terrifying storyline that will get anyone to the edge of their seats, and is a fantastic launching point for Peele to once again work his magic toying with the inner struggles of human nature.
Peele is observational enough to realize the genuine things that creep people out is far more than a haunted house or disfigured zombie and, much like “Get Out,” is able to tackle some of those uncomfortable feelings.
“Us” is highly ambitious and inventive, and though it feels at times the film tries to load perhaps a little too much into its two hours of runtime, is still a fine achievement.
Leaving “Us” will not feel like your traditional theater experience. In fact, the conclusion brings up more questions than what audiences had going in, yet that’s exactly what Peele wants when he examines the darker sides of the human condition and America’s complicated, oppressive past.
“Us” is not a cookie-cutter movie that takes people from point A to point Z with a crisp, clear resolution. “Us” is strange in a number of different ways and, much like a David Lynch picture, the bizarreness of the film makes it all the more disconcerting. Though in the madness there is still a very effective and clear impression that Peele hopes to resonate with his viewers.
The instability of “Us” is exactly what makes it so frightening, and in such a different way from many of the sloppily-put-together horror movies of the last few years. If you want to be treated to a rare film that will leave you horrified, and also present you with questions that linger – “Us” is an accomplishment in many odd and unique ways.
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