Hype is a dangerous thing in the entertainment industry. One way this can take form is when fans have expectations set from previous success. Just ask any fans of “Game of Thrones” what they thought about the final season, and you will get a taste of the effects of this. No matter what the medium, following up an initial success is always a difficult task. The greater the success, the harder the task of following it up will be, so Jordan Peele was taking something of a risk when he decided to return right to the horror genre after the Academy-Award-nominated Get Out.
For me, it was not a risk met with rewards, and I spent much of Us admiring the filmmaking while hating the screenplay. Whether Get Out was a fluke or the success of it simply resulted in too much creative freedom (in other words, too many ‘yes men’ and too few people giving honest criticism) still remains to be seen (a Candyman remake is his next horror outing), but Us has me suspicious that Jordan Peele may be the next M. Night Shyamalan.
Highly polished with a sound design and visual look that most horror movies never have the budget to come close to, Us wastes these resources for a completely derivative film that is full of plot holes due to its obsessive need to over-explain everything. Also, despite the use of horror elements, it often has far more emphasis on the comedic elements. In short, Us tries to be too many things, inspired from too many films (while never changing enough elements to remove the original inspirations from my mind), tonal shifts that are too abrupt, but the worst thing it does is treat the audience like an idiot when it stops the momentum of the action to explain the film’s inner logic.
Without giving too much of this ‘inner logic’ of the film away, I will say that it involves the emergence of doppelgangers from tunnels around
Specifics about this are purposefully vague (though it could have been even
more ambiguous), but the film is primarily concerned with how this affects one
family. The America Wilson family (Lupita Nyong’o,
Winston Duke, Zora Wilson, and Evan Alex) are going on an annual beach vacation
when they are terrorized by a group that looks like evil versions of themselves.
This is where I can no longer divulge any further details without fear of spoiling the movie, but I will say that the only thing that can truly spoil this movie is logic. If you are thinking at all, this movie will frustrate you. There are multiple plot holes, gaps in logic, and even the characters act illogically. Much of this is in service of a message that Peele seems to be trying to make, but it is one that literally dozens of sci-fi films from the past (often very poorly made) have covered. The ‘Us’ versus ‘them’ narrative is slightly clever, but mostly wasted due to sloppy storytelling. With all of the money and attention given to this film, it feels like a movie made from the first draft of a screenplay badly in need of multiple rewrites.
That money may be reason enough for some to enjoy Us, which seems to be the horror movie for people who don’t really watch horror. It is a polished film, without many sincere scares, but a really great production design and an excellent musical score/soundtrack. I enjoyed watching Us in the moments it wasn’t frustrating me, if only because it is as nice to see a horror film being given this kind of attentiveness as it is to see a minority family made the focus without their race being explicitly significant to the narrative. Unfortunately, there was little beyond that in Us for me to enjoy, and I am sincerely worried about the filmmaking future of Peele. The reboot of “The Twilight Zone” has done little to reassure me.
The good news is that if you disagree with me about the film, the 4k Ultra HD presentation is the absolute best way to see it. I watched the film in a Dolby Theater when it first came out, and this presentation pretty closely matched it (although my home theater sound system could not quite meet the theatrical experience) due to the spectacular depth of colors and immersive audio. The blacks of the night sequences and the brightness of the flames were two things I noticed being spectacular during the presentation, even though it was often the audio that had me reacting most often. Whether you like or hate the movie, this is easily the best way to experience it at home.
The 4K package also comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital copy. The special features are included on both the 4K and Blu-ray disc, although they are featured in 4K on the Ultra HD disc. There are several promotional behind-the-scenes featurettes, most of which are brief and rarely go in-depth about anything. There are also deleted scenes, very few of which add anything to the story. As it is, less would have been more effective.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 4/10
Special Features: 6/10