I knew I had to pee about ten minutes into the previews. Instead of taking care of the matter right then and there, I thought I could suppress the urges of my bladder for another two hours and be fine. Boy, was I wrong. While I in no way recommend watching Us with a full tank, as it will likely result in you getting a UTI (exhibit A: me), this experience allowed me to hone in on three main traits of the film: the humor, the horror, and the scene length composition. Before I get into my analysis, here’s a quick and admittedly oversimplified synopsis of the mystery-thriller:
Us depicts a terrifying scenario in which the Wilson family is hunted by their killer doppelgangers. While fighting for their lives, the Wilsons eventually learn that all of Santa Cruz, and likely America, is polluted with these doubles, also known as the Tethered. What do the Tethered want? It’s simple. After generations of living underground in the thousands of miles of abandoned train and subway tunnels in America, the Tethered want to kill their human doubles, or “untether” themselves, in order to get their chance to live a free life above ground.
To start, I nearly peed myself several times due to Peele’s clever comic relief, which was scattered throughout the film. Just like in Get Out, Us portrays a tasteful balance between quick-witted humor and skin-crawling terror, sending viewers on a rollercoaster of emotions. Indeed, I adore Peele’s combination of comedy and horror. However, there was one area in which I felt that the humor diluted the fear-factor of the film; in my opinion, the character of Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), the dad of the Wilson family, failed to leave the comedy sphere and enter that of horror. While the comedic character worked for TSA worker Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery) in Get Out, the main difference there is that Rod was a side-character. Gabe, on the other hand, is a main character, and therefore his continuous lack of seriousness strips the sense of realism and threat of horror felt by the audience. While sprinkled comedic relief is valuable, too much can sabotage the entire genre of a film.
Second comes the horror. With my bladder filling by the minute, I was too scared to be scared during the movie. In other words, I didn’t want to pee myself when screaming from a scary scene. However, to my relief and my dismay, I quickly realized that I could prepare myself for most of the scary scenes. Many of the pop-out and close-call moments are predictable and lacked compelling suspense. That said, Lupita Nyong’o’s performance as Adelaide Wilson and Red (Adelaide’s double), left me scared for days. Her character work was convincing and fear-inducing. Much like Daniel Kaluuya’s chilling performance in Get Out when his character Chris enters sunken place, Nyong’o conveyed dark and twisted emotions that seemed to seep from deep within.
Third comes the duration of the scenes. I’ll admit it: with a full bladder, you are much more cognizant of how long things take. So, what comes next may be biased, but I still think it has to be said. Throughout the film, and especially towards the end, I felt that many of the scenes dragged on. For example, when Adelaide finally confronts Red in Act Three, Red recites a long, overly-explanatory monologue that, instead of revving up the momentum for the final act, ultimately portrays an attempt to tie together the loose ends and unanswered questions that were neglected to be answered earlier on. Then there is the dance fight sequence. While is is unique and boasts an art-house vibe, I’m not sure it belonged at the end of this film. Indeed, the song editing and composition for this scene was innovative and possibly revolutionary; however, the scene as a whole felt out of place after the entire film we had just watched. Was Peele trying to do too much?
So, was Us worth the UTI? Yes and no. It was good and spooky and left me thinking about all of the alternate meanings of the end scene. However, I ultimately think Us fell flat at some points and, if we’re being brutally honest, I was more scared watching Key and Peele’s three-minute sketch “Baby Forest” than I was throughout this entire film.