What do we think about when it comes to having a shadow? Is there a version of us in existence in an alternate dimension?
In Disney’s Peter Pan, Peter’s shadow appears to have its own personality, different from that of Peter. What then does that say about alternate versions of ourselves? Do they think and feel the same way? Do their lives simply mimic ours?
These are the questions that Jordan Peele’s latest psychological thriller, Us, attempts to debunk.
Us follows the tale of a simple family, who decide to vacation in the old family home of Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyongo), the main character. Being in the familiar setting of her old home has always been challenging for Adelaide, who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder due to an incident in the past, in which she had become separated and lost on a family outing. This trip with her family was no different, with rather eerie occurrences triggering her PTSD and causing tension between her family.
What was meant to be a restful vacation ended up becoming a fight for survival, with people, who strikingly look, think and act exactly as Adelaide and her family, making an appearance, wrecking havoc and trying to take over their lives. It almost felt like they were taking revenge on Adelaide’s family for being able to live freely, though there were clearly other motivations involved too. Seeing these ‘clones’ or as the film calls them, ‘shadows’, causes a true sense of confusion as to what the plot involves, something that the director, Jordan Peele, is well known for.
With Adelaide and her family desperately trying to escape the clutches of their shadows, it becomes apparent that there’s much more to the story than simply an attack by enraged clones. The plot twists are aplenty, though surprisingly, the twists aren’t as satisfying as that of Peele’s other hit film, Get Out.
There’s no doubt that Us is a psychological thriller, with a narrative that could easily play mind-tricks on audiences watching the film. Throughout the film there’s an eerie sense that something was wrong and the film does so well to keep it hidden that it’s difficult to figure out. Though not frightening from a horror point of view, the film certainly leads to the terrifying thought of “what if there’s a plane in existence where an alternate me exists and wants to take over my life here on this plane of existence?”
The effective use of colour contrasts between the ‘real’ people in the town compared to the bright red overalls worn by the shadows showed a sense of hidden rage and blood lust that the shadows possessed, as well as the uniformity in which they’ve based their lives. This, combined with the film techniques used to portray desperation, fear and anxiety in the film made Us feel like a nightmare more than a film, but in a good way. The use of eerie music certainly upped the fear factor and added to the thrill of the film.