Jordan Peele is back behind the camera in his second film, a follow-up to the amazing Get Out, and while the social commentary is still there, the style and set-up are completely different.
In 1986, Adelaide Thomas (Madison Curry) wandered off at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. While in an abandoned house of mirrors, she finds herself seeing a little girl who looks exactly like her. 33 years later, Adelaide (Lupita “I’m gonna get more Oscars” Nyong’o) is now Adelaide Wilson, married to Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and the mother of Zora and Jason Wilson (Shahadi Wright and Evan Alex). The family heads to Santa Cruz for vacation at their beach house, but Adelaide reveals she still has nightmares about her encounter from the past. That night, Jason sees another family of people clad in red in the driveway. Gabe tries to confront them, but they quickly attack and infiltrate the house. They are revealed to be doppelgangers of the four named Red (Nyong’o), Abraham (Duke), Umbrae (Wright), and Pluto (Alex). The doppelgangers, named the Tethered, attack the family, determined to get rid of them all and replace them.
Some reviewers of Get Out seemed surprised that Jordan Peele was so good at horror, but I think that’s because most people don’t realize how close humor and horror are. They’re both about altering the norm, both are usually accomplished by playing on the audience’s expectations, and both are usually used as part of satire or social commentary. A scary moment is based on something being said or done that surprises the audience in an unnerving way, while a funny moment does the exact same thing in a relieving way. The only real key difference is whether the moment is being used as catharsis or revulsion. One person who has pointed that out repeatedly through his work is… oh, hey, JORDAN PEELE.
So, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that a guy who was half of a 5 season comedy show which mostly focused on parody of societal hypocrisy or subversion of expectation (and was on MAD TV for 5 years) also has a decent number of ideas for how to make solid horror movies lined up. It helps that this movie actually has a lot of solid comedy beats in it that manage to break some of the tension, giving the audience a chance to breath so that the scene can be stretched a little bit longer. One of the last sequences, however, averts this and that allows the tension to be even higher than it normally would be, because you keep waiting for the tension to break and it doesn’t.
It happens partially in a hall of mirrors, so I couldn’t help but think of this.
Since I’ve already brought up Get Out twice, I suppose I should address one of the bigger concerns people seem to be having: This movie is very different than that one. I was extremely worried from the advertisements that this film was going to address the same themes and kind of go down a similar rabbit hole as Get Out, but, full credit to Peele, this one is much more ambitious and therefore much larger in scope. It also has a much larger budget (roughly 4x as much), which raised the production value significantly, losing any of the elements of the prior film that seemed like a B-Movie. The only thing which the film does much worse is that the script has more plot holes due to being a much more abstract metaphor.
The acting in the film is all top-notch, mostly because everyone plays two roles which are wildly different. I can’t even give special recognition because everyone does it so perfectly. The shots are all packed with symbolism that would probably take many repeated viewings to dissect. The cinematography is top-notch, particularly the use of framing the characters. Basically, everything was amazing. The grand allegory of the film, sadly, requires spoilers to analyze, so I’m going to do that tomorrow.
Overall, I just really have to recommend this film. It’s a work of art that reminds us that social commentary can be an integral part of the genre.
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2 thoughts on “Jordan Peele’s Us: The Duality of Comedy and Horror (Spoiler-Free)”