By Subhash K Jha
Film: Us; Starring: Lupito Nyong’o, Winston Duke; Director: Jonathan Peele; Rating: **(2 stars)
To say director Jonathan Peele’s second feature film is a letdown would be erroneous. His first much-feted fear-jerker “Get Out” had left me cold. While most learned critics across the world found it inventive and witty, it struck as being singularly stupid, and racist in an inverted kind of way.
Race and colour are not an issue in Peele’s new film. Thank God for small mercies! This time he is on another trip as his wholesome African-American family is attacked by ghouls who are spitting images of each member of our wholesome family. So the ghoul attacking the wife looks exactly like the wife, the one attacking the husband looks like his mirror-image. Ditto the children.
All this could make for an entertaining humour-horror hijinks like, say, our own “Stree”. But Peele is on to a far bigger game-plan. He brings in issues regarding governmental intervention in citizens’ lives and the violation of privacy. Long after we are sick of our Wholesome Family caught in miserably compromised situations during a vacation that could put you off seaside resorts for all times to come, the wisdom of the all-knowing filmmaker kicks in.
Much of Peele’s first film was about a Black man running from his White attackers. Here again the premise of the horror-raising event is the same except for the fact that the race is no consideration. Black or white, no one is spared as a community of ghoulish attackers go on a rampage.
Miraculously the family of four remains intact. The protagonists seem to get a hang of how to overcome their other-worldy attackers in time at all. The very beautiful Lupito Nyong’o takes the lead in subduing the sickening spirits. Like all horror movie queens, she is constantly running, screaming, knifing, and bludgeoning. The difference is, the one she attacks looks exactly like her.
Inventive, no? Not quite. The path-breaking horror charmer that Peele’s fans expect, “Us” leads us to believe there is life after death. Only to pull the rug from under our feet by showing that life itself can turn miserable enough to rival death.
(Subhash K Jha can be contacted at [email protected])