With one film, director-producer-writer Jordan Peele has captivated and scared audiences with his brand of horror. Known beforehand as a comedian, thanks mainly to the sketch comedy show Key & Peele, the multi-talented New Yorker has quickly set himself apart from other directors while simultaneously shedding the “just another funny guy” tag. And after scoring a Best Original Screenplay Oscar (and a deserving Best Director nomination) for his feature directorial debut Get Out, Jordan Peele is ready to horrify audiences again with Us.

Starring Academy Award winner Lupita N’yongo, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, Us is a home invasion film with a twist. N’yongo plays Adelaide Wilson who, along with her family, Gabe (Duke), Zora (Joseph) and Jason (Alex), are vacationing, but things aren’t right. Adelaide is uneasy, all due to a traumatic experience she had in the same city (Santa Cruz) where she and her family are visiting. During a trip to the beach to relax and hang with their family friends, they temporarily lose Jason. Adelaide’s reaction is visible proof of her condition, and thus we’re on edge, too.

It’s later that evening when Adelaide’s “black cloud” becomes a full-blown nightmare, because a family of doppelgängers invades the Wilsons. The shock of seeing their mirror selves hasn’t set in, yet the Wilsons realize the worst – their doppelgängers want to kill and replace them. Led by Adelaide’s doppelgänger, Red, she and her husband Abraham (and their children Umbrae and Pluto) all separate with their mirror selves so they can accomplish their sinister goal individually.

That’s as far as I’ll go because Us is best seen knowing as little as possible. Everything I mentioned was covered in the trailers leading up to its release and Blumhouse Productions did an excellent job at revealing almost nothing.

Jordan Peele uses his latest project to assess today’s social climate by using an extremely unsettling situation to ascertain what’s going on, and then takes a wild swing at the guilty parties. If the title isn’t obvious enough, sit down for 116 minutes and watch this. Peele again says plenty through his striking visuals and suggestive dialogue, and he’s doing so both socially and cinematically. We’re lucky to witness such deft work so we need to acknowledge Jordan Peele as a budding, modern day Hitchcock. Not bad for a comedian, right?

If you’re wondering if Peele is a fluke and Get Out was a lightning in a bottle situation, rest assured he’s here to stay. Us is a horror in every sense and in many ways is scarier than his debut. That may not be saying much since some dismiss Get Out’s horror tag. But Us is plenty scary and since Peele’s focus this time out is to make the scares the centerpiece, he’s become craftier with its social message. That adjustment proves Peele’s adaptability since he was clearly paying attention to Get Out’s reactions.

Peele deserves plenty of credit for creating such a savagely clever and eye opening horror, but his cast must receive recognition, too. The standout performance belongs to N’yongo, who’s impressive every minute she’s onscreen. She easily conveys Adelaide’s pain and anguish, and when death is imminent she steps up to protect her family. And since she’s also playing Red, Adelaide’s duality is tangible. As a result, Adelaide is an improved version of the final girl which begs for an Oscar nomination next year.

Winston Duke fans hoping to see his Gabe take charge in M’Baku-like fashion will get none of that here. Gabe is the opposite of the Black Panther character – perfect for this feature since it adds tension. Despite going M’Baku-free, Duke successfully displays range while simultaneously rockin’ a loose Jordan Peele impression. The man studied at Yale, so he better be able to be more than M’Baku (N’yongo studied at Yale, too, so there you have it).

The cinematography, courtesy of Mike Gioulakis (Glass, It Follows), is beautiful, and it pairs up perfectly with Michael Abels’ score (who also scored Get Out).

Combine those with Peele’s excellent work and the memorable turns from the cast, and the result is a horror film for the ages. It’s not as strong as Get Out but Us and its themes will resonate for years.

4.5 stars out of 5


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