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Us First Reviews: Jordan Peele's Terrifying, Thoughtful, Funny Follow-Up Shows Get Out Was No Fluke

Critics are comparing Peele to Carpenter (really!) and Lupita Nyongo's performance to Toni Collette's in Hereditary. But does Us get everything right?

by | March 9, 2019 | Comments

Jordan Peele’s feverishly anticipated follow-up to Get Out, the doppelgänger home invasion horror flick Us, premiered Friday night at South By Southwest in Austin and at a series of simultaneous #UsFirst screenings across the country. If the reaction at SXSW was anything to go by – RT was in the Paramount Theatre in Austin for the premiere – then genre fans are going to eat it up. There were big screams, big laughs, and more than one fist-pump. Star Lupita Nyong’o and Peele earned the night’s biggest cheers when they showed up on stage with the rest of the cast for a post-screening Q&A during which the writer-director described the movie as a horror film for our time that ponders whether “maybe the evil is us.”

It played well in the room, but what did the critics think? Here’s what they’re saying in the first reviews for Jordan Peele’s Us:


Let’s get to the elephant in the room: How does it compare to Get Out?

How could Jordan Peele possibly make a film that measures up to Get Out? That’s the brilliance—and maybe also the disappointment—of Us: he doesn’t even try to… the film, which debuted at SXSW to a crowd that was living for every second, succeeds because of the almost Spielbergian glee it takes in being a traditional, jump-scare, laugh-out-loud, horror movie. It’s the ways in which it’s not “The Next Get Out” that make Us so remarkable.
– Kevin Fallon, Daily Beast

An Oscar win and a boatload of cash later, it’s become a beloved part of our culture, held in the same esteem two years after its premiere by genre heads and the general movie-going public. So if that’s the case, and I think Us is about as good, if not better, does it deserve that highly-coveted label? Yeah, I think so.
– Nick Johnston, Vanyaland

Us (Grade: B), his much-hyped follow-up, isn’t nearly so tidy [as Get Out]. Like many sophomore efforts, it’s ambitious and unwieldy, leaping furiously from one idea to the next without adequately exploring any of them
– Randall Colburn, A.V. Club

…while I have been comparing Us to Get Out for ease of use, the two are really incomparable. Instead, Us stands on its own as a terrifying, provocative, and audacious statement on privilege, race, and poverty — and establishes Peele as a horror auteur.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews


Us

(Photo by @ Universal)

So he has mostly avoided the ‘sophomore slump’?

Peele has grown as a director, which is shocking to say: Every aspect of the film feels heightened from Get Out: The sound design, so essential to that film, is on a whole other level; the cinematography (handsomely shot by Mike Gioulakis, who lensed Glass and It Follows) is captivating, the scares deeper, the laughs better.
– Nick Johnston, Vanyaland

…there is no denying that Peele has avoided the dreaded “sophomore slump” and he has officially cemented himself as one of the most important horror directors of this generation.
– Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

His sophomore effort, Us, proves that surprise hit wasn’t a fluke. Peele’s second outing as writer-director confronts the ridiculously high expectations of its predecessor by pivoting to a broader canvas of ideas about the nation’s fractured identity. In the process, it gives audiences exactly what they want by delivering what they least expect.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Monstrous beings wearing red jumpsuits and a single fingerless glove, carrying giant gold scissors while howling wordlessly to their partners lurking in the shadows — that’s an image that will provoke nightmares, even before we can explore where its components come from.
John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter


Jordan Peele at SXSW

(Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic)

So, Jordan Peele is the next… John Carpenter?

Is it fair to say that Jordan Peele is this generation’s John Carpenter? With his sly grasp of the intersection of popcorn thrills and political allegory, it’s a reasonable comparison. After he provided an Oscar-worthy analysis of race relations in Get Out, now America’s id is probed in Us.
Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle

What Jordan Peele did with Us solidly establishes him as master of suspense and horror.
– Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

Peele is well on his way to joining the all-timer horror pantheon alongside names like Romero, Craven, and Carpenter.
– Nick Johnston, Vanyaland

Us is relentless in, and Peele tickled by, the use of horror tropes to rattle the cage of expectation.
Matt Patches, Polygon


How is Lupita Nyong’o in the lead role?

Lupita Nyong’o delivers one of the strongest performances of her career in this film. Her eerie doppelgänger speaks only as loud as a whisper and her words are delivered with a disjointed cadence. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in a while and is quite memorable.
– Jamie Broadnax, Black Girl Nerds

It is Nyong’o, however, who bears most of the story’s emotional burden, and she does so with astonishing versatility and force, employing what must be every single bone and muscle in her body.
– Angie Han, Mashable

I would be completely remiss to not highlight the work of Lupita Nyong’o, who not only steals the show but has offered a performance that will reign as one of the very best that the horror genre has to offer.
– Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

Nyong’o continues to showcase her talents both dramatically and physically. Her tethered version is something else entirely. It is easily the creepiest thing I’ve seen in a while… Between this role and her role in Little Monsters, this year is certainly a fantastic and very different year for Lupita.
Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

Seriously, if you thought Toni Collette was good in Hereditary, see this. It’s on par, or dare I say it, better than that performance.
– Nick Johnston, Vanyaland

Nyong’o gives a masterclass in acting in dual roles and is almost unrecognizable as her doppelgänger persona…At times, I had to remind myself that this was the same woman; that’s just how good she is.
Yolanda Machado, The Wrap


What about the other actors?

Duke (previously the fearsome clan leader M’Baku in Black Panther) has been a surprisingly winning source of comic relief, stealing scenes as most dads only wish they could.
– John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

Who most surprised me in the film was actually Winston Duke. He became a household name after his performance in Black Panther last year, but this role totally shocked me. As Gabe, he is the perfect embodiment of the typical dad. He’s got the odd sense of humor and the delivery of the corny dad jokes and one-liners down perfectly.
– Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

Young [Shahadi Wright] Joseph meanwhile, plays two extremes of a teenager: one slightly removed, angsty but loving, while the other is just downright creepy. Her strengths are on full display in some of the more climatic scenes, but that evil-twin smile will haunt me in my sleep.
– Yolanda Machado, The Wrap


Us

(Photo by @ Universal)

Get Out had a lot on its mind: What’s this movie really about?

…it quickly becomes obvious that Us has a lot more on its mind than making you jump. Every detail here seems carefully considered, down to the amount of dust gathered on a coffee table in a rarely used living room. In the hands of a filmmaker this precise, much of the fun is in waiting to see just how his intricate puzzle will come together.
Angie Han, Mashable

The movie is constantly illustrating — and nearly as often inverting — the gender roles we play in a patriarchal society, as when daughter Zora takes the lead to become the family’s most effective defender at one point.
Peter DeBruge, Variety

… the film requires us to realize and reflect that the problems we are facing and the evils were are facing may require us to examine and look at ourselves first. Have we created this evil or this otherness that we are so afraid to face? Parts of the film could also be seen as a commentary on mental health and our abilities to face our demons.
– Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

As it turns out, the ultimate zeitgeist movie in 2019 harkens back more than 30 years. Us imports Reagan-era America to a mortifying contemporary context that revisits the past as a nightmare that won’t die..
– Eric Kohn, IndieWire

What exactly do the bunnies represent exactly? This is a question only to be solved by a group of Reddit detectives.
– Jamie Broadnax, Black Girl Nerds


The music stood out in the trailer, is it effective in the movie?

The music of composer Michael Abels, who also did Get Out, is a mix of Jerry Goldsmith’s The Omen and Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill. It’s haunting, jarring, unsettling, and completely arresting.
– Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

…Michael Abels’ unnerving score builds to shrieking crescendos, some of which do push this jittery material over the top.
– Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Wild cinematography, wild dialogue, wild twists, and wild music (there’s a “Fuck Tha Police” music cue that should go down in history) are working together here to recreate that throwback cinematic experience.
– Kevin Fallon, Daily Beast


But it can’t be perfect, right?

The pacing sometimes drags, although the patience Peele exhibits in building the tension of a scene is masterful. Additionally, the twist can be seen coming a mile away.
– Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

Having stretched this wily premise to nearly two hours, the full explanation for the forces at work can’t possibly satisfy as much as the suspense leading up to their arrival. That’s forgivable in a movie working overtime to provoke and disturb without toppling over from too much ambition.
– Eric Kohn, IndieWire

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it does tend to get a little lost towards the end and it feels like it meanders a bit before getting to the end of the film.
– Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

The ambitious film, which had been shrouded in secrecy, sees Peele once again using the language of horror to say something about where we are as a society. But that commentary manages to be neither as obvious nor as nuanced as that in Get Out. While provocative, it doesn’t quite stick the landing this time.
– Kevin Fallon, Daily Beast


Us Poster

Joel Meares

Any final words?

Several hours and many conversations later, I’m still convinced this film has secrets I haven’t uncovered yet, and I’m just eager for my next chance to go digging through it again.
– Angie Han, Mashable


Us opens everywhere on March 22.

#1

Us (2019)
93%

#1
Adjusted Score: 117.303%
Critics Consensus: With Jordan Peele's second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us.
Synopsis: Set in present day along the iconic Northern California coastline, Us, from Monkeypaw Productions, stars Oscar (R) winner Lupita Nyong'o... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

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