Saturday, March 23, 2019

Non-Spoilery Impressions of Jordan Peele's Us

I've been eagerly awaiting Jordan Peele's new film Us.  I've always liked Peele from his comedy work (which often had horror and science fiction aspects), but Get Out was a paradigm shift in modern horror film.  It was a central part of my course on horror and philosophy last fall, where we focused on the idea of double-consciousness from W. E. B. Du Bois as well as absurdity from Albert Camus.

I went to see Us yesterday as research for the next iteration of my horror and philosophy class this fall.  It lived up the hype.  Exceeded it, even.  It's the kind of movie I will need some time to wrap my mind around -- or rather, to allow it to wrap itself around my mind.  I can't write a proper review just yet.  And I'm mindful of spoilers seeing as it was just released yesterday.  So instead I present these non-spoilery first impressions.

  • Go see Us if you can.  If you like horror at all.  If you can handle horror at all.  Or even if you can't.  (Okay, if you're the type who gets scared by horror in unhealthy ways, don't see it.  Maybe read about it.)
  • Us is a very different movie than Get Out.  It's just as brilliant.  It may be even deeper than Get Out in some ways, or at least it's far more ambiguous.  There are at least three or four ways to interpret the deeper message of the film that I can see.  There are probably more ways I can't see.
  • Us does what a lot of great film, literature, art, and philosophy does: it seeps into your being and changes you (if you let it, or maybe even if you don't) in ways you may not fully understand at first (if you ever do).  In this way it reminds me of the work of Ursula K. Le Guin (only a lot scarier).
  • The performances by the actors, especially Lupita Nyong'o, are amazing.  I hope Nyong'o in particular wins all the awards.  
  • The less you read about the plot of Us before watching it, the better.  Watch it carefully.  Watch it patiently.  Watch it again.  I know I will.
  • One thing that is spoiled in the trailers: there are doppelgängers.  It's terrifying.  But why?  That's the interesting question.
  • Is Us scary?  Sure, but not as much in a straightforward horror sense as you might think. There aren't a lot of jump scares.  There are no scary clowns or zombies or vampires or ghosts or whatever.  But it's horror in a deeper sense.  It's supposed to communicate directly with something deep inside the viewer and stay there, lurking in both your conscious and unconscious mind.  It's a mirror that allows you to see that you've been there staring at yourself the whole time.
  • There is a bit of comic relief at just the right moments.
  • The score and soundtrack are great.  The score heightens the creepy factor.  The song choices work really well (one spoiler I can't resist: one of my favorite Janelle Monáe songs is briefly in the background at one point).
  • Peele is a gifted director.  I don't have any real training in film, but even a total amateur like me can tell that every shot is carefully constructed.  There are little visual hints carefully planted throughout the movie.  I'm sure there are a lot I missed.
  • A lot of people are saying Jordan Peele is the new Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, or Rod Serling.  But I think we should instead see him as the first Jordan Peele (as this article says).
  • Us makes me even more excited than I already was to see what Peele does with the new Twilight Zone, which premieres on April 1.
  • Us affected me deeply.  I will be thinking about this film for a long time.  Long after this post.  Long after whatever in-depth review or paper I might write eventually.  
  • Speaking of papers, someone needs to edit a volume on Jordan Peele and Philosophy.  It is a thing the universe requires.  I'm kind of busy these days.  Maybe my double will do it.
  • Go see Us if you can.  If you dare.  And then let's talk about it.  Jordan Peele has given all of us a lot to discuss.

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