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Jordan Peele’s Us Thrilled and Terrified Audiences at SXSW
Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated horror film Us screened at Austin’s SXSW film festival Friday, and early reviews have been pouring in. So far, the movie has found almost unanimous praise both from critics and on social media, and has been heralded for being both artfully directed and scary as hell. Though Rotten Tomatoes has only collected 18 reviews—the film is still weeks away from its March 22nd wide release—the review aggregator shows Us clocking in at an impressive 100% fresh as of this writing.
Us is Peele’s first film since 2017’s Get Out, which won widespread acclaim and earned the writer-director the Best Original Screenplay trophy at last years’ Academy Awards. But viewers say that Us is far more terrifying than Get Out, which kept its scares relatively mild.
The film centers on a family of four headed by Black Panther stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke. In classic horror fashion, the family’s vacation idyll is bloodily interrupted when they’re terrorized by four intruders, who, in this case, happen to be their doppelgängers.
No one who’s seen Get Out will be surprised that the symbolism in the family being tormented by demented versions of themselves is completely intentional. “We are our own worst enemy,” Peele said in an interview with The Guardian, “not just as individuals but more importantly as a group, as a family, as a society, as a country, as a world.”
We are afraid of the shadowy, mysterious ‘other’ that’s gonna come and kill us and take our jobs and do whatever, but what we’re really afraid of is the thing we’re suppressing: our sin, our guilt, our contribution to our own demise … No one’s taking responsibility for where we’re at. Owning up, blaming ourselves for our part in the problems of the world is something I’m not seeing.
Critics are praising the film’s genuine scares as well as Nyong’o’s dual performances as both matriarch and monster, but a few reviews suggest that the movie limps rather than races to the finish. “Its third act collapses during a fit of exposition that raises more questions than it answers,” wrote Randall Colburn in his assessment for The AV Club, “and its lingering twist lands with a palpable thud, failing to resonate due to a central metaphor that’s a touch too translucent.” But then a less-than-satisfying ending never stopped a movie from becoming a horror classic—just look at The Shining.
The film isn’t the only frightfest Peele’s got on his calendar—not only does Us debut later this month, but his star-studded Twilight Zone reboot drops on CBS’s streaming platform All-Access on April 1st.
If you’re feeling brave, check out the trailer for Us below.