The Popcorn Periodical
Lupita Nyong’o is shear-ly brilliant in Jordan Peele’s “Us”
“I Got 5 On It” by Luniz is a “dope song,” says Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke, Black Panther) en route to his summer home in Santa Cruz, California, accompanied by his wife Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o, Black Panther) and two kids, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph, who will voice young Nala in Disney’s upcoming The Lion King) and Jason (Evan Alex, Showtime’s Kidding). It’s one of the first scenes in Us, Jordan Peele’s directorial sophomore film, and many will remember it from the explosive trailer which was viewed more than 17 million times on Universal Studios’ official YouTube channel since it debuted on Christmas Day last year.
For anyone who listened to hip hop in the 90’s, “I Got 5 On It” is an absolute classic, and the hauntingly melodic 2019 rendition “I Got 5 On Us” (by Luniz featuring MC’s Krayzie Bone & Damon Elliott) makes for a perfectly hypnotizing theme song considering this production preys upon the senses by mixing monumental yet refreshingly current horror/sci-fi elements with pop culture and social commentary.
Upon viewing, Us stands tall, like a menacing scarecrow above a redundant cornfield of modern horror movies. Like Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Greta starring Chloë Grace Moretz – putting it lightly, 2019 has been less than satisfying for the horror genre. Not since 2018’s Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock and Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis has a satisfyingly scary movie been released, and even then, both films weave through an entanglement of common genre tropes. A web the Academy Award-winning Jordan Peele (whose debut horror film was 2017’s Get Out) has taken upon himself to spin in an entirely different way. Like the Itsy Bitsy Spider, if you will.
It’s impossible to talk about Us without completely spoiling the endless surprises it delivers. Truly, it has more twists and turns than a pack of Twizzlers. And while the aforementioned trailer gives you a basic understanding of the movie’s storyline, Us is definitely not what you think it is. From conspiracy theories to the political and societal commentary (like how ridiculously long it takes for the police to respond to a 9-1-1 call), Us will be the subject of conversation among moviegoers everywhere this spring. It’s convoluted, relevant, and bad-ass, in every way imaginable, and you’ll want to see it again as soon as it’s done. You know, in case you missed something. Which you probably did. There’s foreshadowing, numerology, symbolism, and social discourse in mastermind Jordan Peele’s game, but it’s not just a matter of finding out the who, but also the how and the why and the … What the…?!
Part Avante-Garde horror, part psychological sci-fi, part modern-day slasher, and part comedic satire, Us is a hodge-podge of subgenres woven together to create a contemporary work of cinematic art. Each piece of the story triggers another episode of suspense, and every inch of the bigger picture remains a mystery waiting to be solved. Elements of classic horrors like The Shining, The Clonus Horror, The Strangers, even Scream are reimagined in a completely original way. Not to mention the sheer dread of not knowing what comes next as your adrenaline will take more than a moment to wear off, even as the credits roll.
The best way to describe what transpires (without spoilers) is through an analogy that Us has a heartbeat. An actual pulse you feel beating relentlessly throughout its 1h 56m running time. The music is throbbing, the cinematography and settings are visually electric, and Peele’s comic background shines brightly through a darkened lens. His comedic timing is impeccable and effective. Political, even. And despite Us’ exhilarating suspense, the film would’ve made for a hilariously dark comedy. In some ways, it already does.
Somewhere towards the end of this thrilling debacle (in the final and third act of the film), Us chooses to speed up instead of slowing down, then arguably fizzles out quickly. The result is nothing short of confusing: moviegoers at my premiere screening were audibly frustrated leaving the theatre, and perhaps that’s what Jordan Peele wanted. Ironically, this movie is like a gory episode of The Twilight Zone (a series Peele is set to reboot on CBS this April 1st). No joke!
The true meaning of Us is open to interpretation but there’s no uncertainty about its astonishingly talented cast. The movie wouldn’t be what it is without them. Lupita Nyong’o, especially. Not only does she deliver one of the best performances of her career (as both Adelaide Wilson and her doppelganger Red) but she has a very good chance of being reacquainted with Oscar come the 2020 award season. It would be an absolute shame should she not be considered. She’s that good. And her co-stars bring a believability that helps elevate her performance to the take-charge “Scream Queen” level that it is.
So while I haven’t been able to say anything about the actual plot of the movie (which is guaranteed to keep you talking even after the film’s ending), I can say that Jordan Peele and his production company Monkeypaw Productions is doing for the horror genre what it was always meant to. As Big Brother would say, “Expect the unexpected.” And that’s exactly what we’ll do when writer/director/producer Jordan Peele releases his next horror film, a remake of the 90’s classic Candyman set for a 2020 release.
In the meantime, go see Us! It’s the best film of 2019, so far.
✂️✂️✂️✂️ / 5
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.