First Hit: Started off OK, but then became a contrived, overburdened, and almost laughable story.
I was a fan of Jordan Peele’s Get Out. However, here the characters felt pressed in their roles and the premise and ending was apparent to me early on.
The ability to keep the audience focused on one thing while using sleight of hand to set us up for a surprise is what this film is about. However, when the crowning moment appears and I sat there and said to myself, “yeah, that was expected,” it didn’t work.
Us didn’t work for me because Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o also plays Red) was a little too odd from the beginning. Her looks and way of being stood out a too much.
The set-up from her going into the house of mirrors as a child and being adversely affected wasn’t strong enough to make me buy her subsequent adult behavior. Therefore I started trying to figure out why is she was the way she was — darkly edgy.
The story is, that as a child, Adelaide enters a house of mirrors and gets scared. We are to believe this had a profound effect on her. Then we meet her later in life married to Gabe (Winston Duke also plays Abraham). They have two children Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex respectively). On a family vacation, they decide to take a day trip to Santa Cruz. Adelaide doesn’t want to go because this is where the house of mirrors, where she was frightened in as a child, is located.
Events, with Jason wandering off at the Santa Cruz beach near the house of mirrors, spark’s a visit from their dark underworld counterparts.
The story gets more complex by adding in their friends Josh and Kitty Tyler (Tim Heidecker and Elizabeth Moss respectively) and their twin daughters Becca and Lindsey (Cali Sheldon and Noelle Sheldon respectively).
The underworld expansion and counterpoint to each of the characters were mildly entertaining.
Nyong’o telegraphed the part more than I would have liked. I’m not sure whether this was at Peele’s direction or her interpretation. Regardless, outside of a few strong scenes, I didn’t buy it. Duke had some funny scenes, like his first foyer in his boat, but his role didn’t work for me and I didn’t think he and Nyong’o worked as a couple. It just didn’t seem to fit. Joseph was probably the best thing in the film. When she got in the driver’s seat of the car and insisted in driving, and when she took the golf club in hand, the audience knew she meant business. She was excellent. Alex was good as the son, however, the mask fixation didn’t work for me, and I understand why it was part of the role. Heidecker and Moss were strong in their supportive roles. Peele both wrote and directed this film and for the most part it didn’t work. It made me wonder if he’ll fall into the same trap as M. Night Shyamalan; create a wonderful first film and then slowly fall into the abyss of ever increasingly bad films.
Overall: This film was failure of suspense, thrill, and horror.