The Rabbits Have Come Home to Roost: Us (2019)

us

WARNING: THIS BLOG POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for US

“…a big part of this for me was feeling like some of my favorite offerings in the horror genre work allegorically. Which, Get Out was not, really. It wasn’t an allegory. Get Out was about what it was about. It was about race. But horror that pops tends to do so because there’s a bigger picture behind the images.”

This comment was by Us writer and director Jordan Peele in an interview with Gizmodo. I love horror that codes for larger social anxieties. The more cryptic, the better. I love knowing that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre could be about the loss of the American dream and/or the gas crisis of the 1970’s, and that The Exorcist could be about the breakdown of the American nuclear family in the shadow of 1960’s counterculture.

Peele is someone that wants to give us the gift of entertaining, well-made and important horror films. And with Us, his average remains at 100%.

US (2019)
Director & Writer: Jordan Peele
Notable Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Anna Diop
Production Company: Monkeypaw Productions
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Plot: Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them. Source: Google) 

Comments: Us is a complicated stew borrowing from several traditions. It’s a classic Twilight Zone episode; an apocalyptic movie (possibly zombie-by-proxy?); a beachfront horror film (as cued by the Jaws t-shirt on Jason, the Wilsons’ youngest child); some elements of the home invasion subgenre. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the work of Neil Gaiman was an influence on Peele – both “Neverwhere” and Coraline deal in creepy mirror worlds with disturbing facsimiles.

There wasn’t one misstep as far as casting. Lupita Nyong’o was excellent as Adelaide – many are claiming this was her movie and they’re probably right – and Winston Duke very charming as Gabe, the goofy lovable father. Child actors can break a story like this, but as Zora and Jason, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Alex shone and carried a few of the most nail-biting, adrenaline inducing scenes of the movie. Young Adelaide and her double were portrayed by Anna Diop and she properly conveyed both the trauma and the creepiness that character carried within her through adulthood. I liked Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker though their characters were written as slightly one-note comic relief. Perhaps intentionally; I have been hearing ‘consumerism’ in connection to this film.

You’ll note that although Nyong’o was the main protagonist and hero (and her story has a twist at the end that I can’t even begin to process and will probably invalidate all my conclusions!), she wasn’t a Final Girl. Us features an African-American Final Family, adept at surviving the ordeal to which the individuals and families around them (primarily white) easily succumb.

Maybe the movie’s weaker parts were its scenes of horror. The Doppelganger doubles were disturbing as hell, so why did some sequences fall flat as far as jump scares and horror?

What We’re Afraid Of: Now we’re at the point where Chillerpop needs to crack the DaVinci Code. This movie is chock-full of details to pore over and obsess, starting with none other than Bible passage Jeremiah 11: 11, which reads:

Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them.”

We have rabbits all over the place, symbols of fertility and spring rebirth and that have also been known to just creep people out.

We have two instances of a Black Flag t-shirt across time, a random detail I picked up, probably just my lame hope that the notorious hardcore punk band ties into the bigger picture of Us.

We also have in the movie’s iconography “Hands Across America“, that ostentatious, star-studded, saccharine attempt at national unity in the me-me-me 1980’s.

Indeed, the “Tethers” (the name for the doppelgangers invading our world from their secret underworld of tunnels) appear to be staging some sort of revolution that is a weird, bloody inversion of “Hands Across America”.

One of the film’s final shots features and endless chain of hand-holding Tethers looking like a human version of a wall. Adelaide suggests an escape to Mexico.

I started out by saying that the film is cryptic, but some Googling reveals that Us may be in fact code for our current political woes, monsters that are mirror images of us in this time of deep political and racial divisions, attacking and invading our world in a horrid parody of unity, or an upswell of national sins that insist on making us pay.

The rabbits have come home to roost.

 


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