What I'm Watching: Us

  • Us: Another Jordan Peele Twilight Zone flick. Text crawl claims that there's thousands of miles of tunnels of mysterious purpose under America. With the implication that it's full of monsters. So Dungeons & Dragons is real?! Good to know, Jordan. Then there's 20+ minutes of utter boredom back in 1986, when normally I would rate the '80s as the least boring part, very briefly a scene with some tension and the little girl Addy.

20 years later (and it feels like it), the plot starts. Addy's very gentrified, possession-oriented black family settles into their Santa Cruz beach vacation house, get a boat, meet their honkie friend "Josh" and his blonde family at the beach. Nice and idyllic. And then out of nowhere, we get told more of the little girl's scene, and the monsters show up.

Addy gets tied up and terrorized a lot, Dad is utterly useless, but the kids are fairly impressive little survivors.

As a slasher flick, there really aren't enough victims, and it doesn't sustain the tension, it keeps releasing to long "oh that's over" scenes. The killers are more pathetic than terrifying.

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There's a lot of weird visuals, which are poorly to never explained. The remake of Hands Across America (a USA For Africa charity event, you may know the song "We Are the World") makes no sense, how did non-verbal shadows work this out? Police or soldiers will just destroy them once it's sunlight. Do politicians have their own shadows, and how would scissor-wielding maniacs get past the Secret Service? The final scenes show helicopters flying over woods, presumably where the Shadows Across America line goes? Why aren't they firing or dropping bombs on these known mass murderers?

Addy has a final descent into the mythic underworld by escalator (her knowing the way down telegraphed her origin, but it has problems, too), where she finds bunnies running loose (but no explanation how the killers raised them down there, or where all the supplies come from), and a long nonsense explanation about cloning and souls.

The duel/dance is passable, but Addy never cooperates with Red's dance, which would've made this fight more interesting. I think especially of Jet Li's The One, where he fights himself, but each has mastered a distinct martial arts style, so the fight's visually amazing. This is… it reminds me of Marvel movies, where there's amazing fight choreography but the actors aren't all up to performing it, so you get a martial artist fighting a drunken bozo.

The final revelation about Addy doesn't make a lot of sense. Addy's awful vulnerable and emotional for a soulless murder machine like the others. Red's croaky voice is from being strangled, fine, but why didn't she ever come up to the surface before? How did she organize a worldwide cult of the shadows to come up at the same time, when they don't talk, or really seem aware?

Obviously I'm pretty tolerant of implausible premises in movies, given my love of kaiju and fantasy, but this one falls apart internally worse than most.

★★★½☆ Good try, Jordan, better than your awful Twilight Zones, but not another "Get Out". Jordan Peele is the new M. Night Shyamalan.

The concept's been around a while: Mirror people, dopplegangers, or faerie changelings, ultimately going back to pre-historic myths. My favorite's in the Nightbane RPG by Palladium Books, where the Nightland (always dark, mirror image Earth) is populated by dopplegangers of Earth people, just waiting for a chance to use a mirror as a portal and kill and replace you (Nightbane also borrows heavily from Clive Barker's Cabal, Great and Secret Show, and Hellbound Heart). I really should dig the books up and run Nightbane again.

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