US – More Creepy Statement Thriller than Poop da Pants Horror

Following on from the success of Jordan Peele’s masterpiece GET OUT the maestro returns with a somewhat creepy thriller horror that is a visual masterpiece. US drops tomorrow, Thur 28th March, in Australia from the awesome peeps at Universal Pictures Australia. It is rated MA15+ and runs for 116mins. Your diapers are only required for the first hour – you shouldn’t poop yourself after that.

US Madison Curry image
Madison Curry

BY JASON KING

US SYNOPSIS:

Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.

US Lupita Nyong'o image
Lupita Nyong’o

JORDAN PEELE’S REMINDER WE ARE STILL TETHERED TO OUR PAST:

US is basically two films in one. The first 30-45mins are a creepy horror film that reminded me of SCREAM meets FUNNY GAMES. It is terrifying and there is a little kid with a burned head mask that runs around like Samara from THE RING – I couldn’t deal with that kid – “get the fuck out” kept screaming in my head. Then the film shifts after a big reveal I am trying not to mention throughout this review.

But following this Peele takes US back into familiar territory and returns to a statement on slavery and the past of the U.S.. It’s a message about our tethered-to-our-own-history of slavery. Have we truly emerged from our dark shadowy past or have we just left it underground/ in the shadows to smother. What happens if that dark shadowy past is pissed off and emerges to take back its former place in the world.

Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.

Jeremiah 11:11

Try and avoid finding meaning in the movie or the second half will just appear as plot holes and a headache of confusion – just go with it like a rabbit to slaughter. To find my meaning for the film it came about from a review from Roger Ebert, not from the grave, his website team still reviewing. I was honestly trying to avoid meaning for the film but there is too much symbolism and as Kernel Jack reminded me at the premiere last night – Peele always has a message, political or otherwise. US shows us the light and dark side of our humanity and does it with chilling creepy little-bastard imagery. Seriously that pyro kid will haunt me for the rest of my life.

STILL COVERED IN THE PEELE THAT WE LOVE:

Peele still manages to incorporate everything we love about him. There is so many references and symbolism in US that multiple viewings still won’t reveal them all. Even things down to the meaning of the word on Zora’s hoodie – it means “rabbit” in Vietnamese. This entire film is an onion of layers and meaning. But juggling all the meaning he still finds plenty of time for dialogued humour, situational humour and perfectly timed music, the single best use of “Fuck the Police” by NWA. And speaking of music – the score from US is so good I will have it on regular rotation, the occasional tribal drum beats are the pulse of the film.

How do we categorise US? What kind of movies is it like? To get the actors in the right frame of mind Peele made the cast watch ten movies. Dead Again (1991), The Shining (1980), The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2014), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The Birds (1963), Funny Games (1997), Martyrs (2008), Let the Right One In (2008), and The Sixth Sense (1999). Mix all those together and sprinkle it heavily with THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER and we get US. Definitely a film I can get behind!

US Creepy Kids image
This is just too bloody scary – go away Satan’s Spawn Kids

WONDERFUL CASTING:

Meanings aside this film is a symbolic visual masterpiece – everything looks bloody amazing! I am somewhat concerned the film relied more on the creepy visuals over a deep and meaningful film but I am sure I will get more meaning via multiple viewings. Kernel Jack and I tried to break the film down on the drive home last night and came to the conclusion GET OUT was a much better story and US used much better filmmaking techniques. My god – when Peele matches them up he will become the new Hitchcock, he is mostly there already if you think about it.

Backing him up in the film and making it as successful as it has become is the cast and Good Zeus they are impressive. Lupita Nyong’o may have won an oscar for 12 YEARS A SLAVE but this is the film that she will be remembered for. And don’t forget, all the lead actors in this movie play two characters – normal kind and horrific demonic version. What Nyong’o does with both is groundbreaking, memorable and bloody terrifying.

Winston Duke played both Gabe and Abraham and while I love Duke, both his characters were bloody useless, did Peele switch the stereotypes by making male the less-than-useful character?

Elizabeth Moss was as brilliant as usual in a smaller role – you will love and hate her and definitely find her amusing.

Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex were brilliant as the kids and Evan Alex’s creepy little Pluto character was just AMAZING!! I wanted to burn it with fire!!

US Lupita Nyong'o image
Lupita Nyong’o

IN CONCLUSION:

US is bloody brilliant but it didn’t reach the level of greatness of GET OUT as a complete package. As a visually sublime mind assault it is one of the best films of the year but there was more lacking in Peele’s second horror outing. But don’t listen to me – get off your butts and head to the cinemas – then share your thoughts in the comments below.

YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.