Us ★★★★

*I won't get into specific plot spoilers, but I will address the broader narrative structure here, so if you want to go in completely blind, probably stop now*

Hm. I listened to a Peele interview where he said he was cognizant of the expectations people had for a "woke racial" follow-up to Get Out, and that he consciously tried to subvert those expectations. I'd say he's well and truly subverted them, all right.

My gut reaction to the film was one of hesitation; the movie is supremely well-made from a technical standpoint and the imagery is evocative and suggestive, but I felt some third-act over-explaining and the can-opening ending worked to make it simultaneously too straightforward and unnecessarily muddied and ambiguous.

If that sounds messy, it kind off is - it's certainly less clear what Peele is trying to say with this film, if anything at all. But whereas Get Out worked as more-or-less a straightforward allegory, the subtler and vaguer symbolism here allows the thrills to play on a more primal level. Without having to think about the broader significance of each scare, I was able to zone out and just be ~thrilled~. The frights aren't scary because of what they imply, they're just scary because they are. And yet, whether because of Get-Outian expectations or not, the undercurrent of greater meaning pulses beneath the film, imbuing everything with a certain intellectual spookiness. There's something to do with class divides and self-identity, but I don't know exactly what, and I liked that. Maybe it's the impressionist in me, but giving me abstract thought-starters by way of visceral horrors made a more lasting impression than the more direct takeaways of Get Out.

And that's all without even mentioning the specifics that make it all so fun. The set and production design here is miles off the chart, and the ghostly choral score is sublime. Lupita steals the show but the whole cast is aces, and more than anything, the palette of visual motifs (from scissors to red jumpsuits to bunnies to carnivals to mirrors to) is rich and really sets the film apart from similar home-invasion/slashers. It sounds weird to say after Peele's success, but the movie is weird enough in style and content that I could see it being initially underappreciated and later hailed as a cult-classic, rather than the insta-hit Get Out was. I almost think I would've enjoyed it more if it leaned more into the weird and let the distinctive imagery live on as a question mark, rather than trying to tie it all up. Before the exposition-heavy ending, it really is floating on a The Shining-type free-association level, and it's really dope.

As I said, I'll have to think some more about the ending, and it's certainly guilty of the "more-you-think-about-it-the-less-it-makes-sense" pitfall and some The Game-esque gotchas. And yet, thinking back on it, I've actually come to appreciate the relative open-endedness of it all, even given the fairly firm ending. It's a big swing Peele took, and you can feel the heft of his imagination through the whole thing. Right now, the fact that it decided to try and bring everything together and didn't all the way stick the landing is keeping this at 4 stars, but I had so much fun that if it keeps growing on me as it has so far, it might just get to 4.5 one day.

TL;DR - Thinking too much about it is sort of missing the point, but it's fun and funny and scary and has an incredibly unique voice. Far from a sophomore slump, it proves Peele has way more to say and show, and I'll be here for it all. Also obv 10/10 theater-going experience

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