I was a big fan of “Get Out“, Jordan Peele’s feature directorial debut. His second film “Us“, however, was maybe the most laughably bad movie I saw in 2019. So I was worried about which way this film was going to go. The original trailer was intriguing, but not convincing on it’s own. The subsequent trailers were less inspiring and I started having big doubts about how this would all work out. I am relieved to say that the film is solid, with a good deal of suspense, a couple of good scares and some humor. The action based last act seems to come out of nowhere and it feels like a slightly different movie at that point, but not a bad different movie, just not one that feels closely tied to what came before.
Regular visitors know that I do not regurgitate the plot of the film in these reviews and I avoid as much as possible spoiler material. I am going to share something with you however that may be interpreted as a spoiler by some, so be aware…this movie is filled with red herrings and when it is done, you may very well wonder why they were all there. This is especially true with the flashback sequences to a different horror story that is told in the movie. There is no logical reason for it’s presence except as a story telling piece of legerdemain, designed to distract us at times from things that are goin on in the main plot. It is a well told story with it’s own elements of suspense and horror, but it has no relationship to the events that happen here, except both stories take place in the entertainment industry.
Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer play siblings who are part of a show business group that provide horses and wrangle them on Hollywood productions. After the mysterious death of their father (an underused Keith David), they are struggling to keep their ranch together and selling off horses that are part of the family legacy. Kaluuya plays OJ, a man who has a hard time making himself heard on set and off. Keke Palmer is his sister Emerald, who has trouble in the opposite direction, she can’t turn it off most of the time. When they discover something unusual taking place in the gulch where their ranch is located, they try to find a way to use that discovery to save them from financial ruin. Down the dirt road is Ricky “Jupe” Park, played by Steven Yuen, a former child star with his foot in a different branch of the entertainment industry, and he too has plans to use the discovery to his advantage. It is the convergence of these two stories that is the only thread which brings the horror elements we are shown together.
Because OJ is so quiet, his character starts off without much relatability. I did feel that his character grew as a presence in the story and by the end, he had earned a heroic plotline. In one of those red herring sequences in the film, he gets to play against the hard type that he is shown as, and it works as a moment of humor. Another character, Angel, Brandon Perra, is added to the mix and he also jukes the story humor up a bit while still keeping the suspense going. The slow build first act of the film sets us up really well for the edge of our seats fear and terror of the second act. There are some big unexpected moments, and the twist of the horror/sci-fi concept is revealed and sort of interesting. Michael Wincott joins the group as a mysterious cinematographer, and I don’t quite get what his actions at the end are supposed to mean, but he does tend to add a little gravitas to the last section of the film.
So not everything in the story comes together, and the resolution feels like it came out of left field, but it was fun anyway. I think the movie does mostly what you want a horror film to do. It creates a creepy atmosphere, it tells us enough about the characters to make us care and enjoy being in their company, and it ultimately produces some thrills that are fear based and suspenseful. It’s nice when a movie offers you things that you were not expecting, it just odd when those things are disconnected from the plot. Enjoy going down a few dead ends, but you will get a fine amount of entertainment from everything else.