The reviews of Us are in: Jordan Peele has successfully dodged the sophomore slump. His second film as a writer and director is more of a straight-up horror movie than the racially driven thriller Get Out. Without venturing too far into spoiler territory, Us tells the story of a family who are tormented by their own doppelgängers while on vacation.
But even this take on traditional home invasion horror contains the elements of humor and satire for which Peele has become known as an auteur, not to mention clues and twists that reward repeated viewing, leading to assertions that Peele is elevating the horror genre. In fact, a number of critics are keen to make the case for Us being more than a horror movie, as if the presence of blood and jump-scares somehow cheapen its achievements. “Us is a horror film—though saying so is like offering a reminder that The Godfather is a gangster film or that 2001: A Space Odyssey is science fiction,” writes The New Yorker’s Richard Brody, while The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II describes the film as a “meta-satire.”
But Us is, first and foremost, a scary movie. Peele himself has said as much. And it’s a damn good one. The first half ratchets up the tension so skillfully that certain moments are genuinely stressful to watch, and the plot zigs every time you expect it to zag.