REVIEW: US (2019)

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US (2019)

 

It seems to be tradition, as of late, that the media picks one horror movie each year and over-hypes it to the point where it could never meet expectations. Last year Hereditary was the “Exorcist of this generation”…uh, not quite. This year it’s Jordan Peele’s intriguingly weird, but slightly underwhelming Us.

Movie starts out in 1986 were young Adelaide (Madison Curry) wanders away from her parents while visiting the Santa Cruz boardwalk and has a traumatic experience in a funhouse. Years later Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) returns to that area with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), athletic daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and younger son Jason (Evan Alex). Adelaide reveals to her husband that in that funhouse she encountered a doppelgänger of herself and it terrified her. Gabe has a hard time believing her until said doppelgänger (also Nyong’o) shows up at their door one night with her own duplicate family (also Duke, Joseph and Alex). The Wilson duplicates are violent and vicious and lay siege to the house. As the Wilsons must go on the run and fight for their lives, it soon becomes apparent that this event is only the start of something far larger and more horrifying.

Peele writes and directs and he not only has some interesting and unusual ideas, he is also a very sound director with an effective visual style. Yes, the concept behind this initial home invasion is original and quite weird and it gets even stranger once the story opens up in the last act, but it’s just that it simply isn’t that scary. At first, the doppelgänger arrival is chilling, as we are introduced to the anti-Wilsons and their intensions, but it flattens out a bit as it starts to follow the routine home invasion flick formula, which was never thrilling to begin with. Thanks to some conveniences, like a boat that malfunctions and then works exactly when you need it too, the Wilsons escape and go on the run to a neighbor’s house, but even then it remains uneven. The televised footage of what appears to be a doppelgänger invasion is creepy, but it’s effectiveness gets neutered by the Wilsons adapting to this bizarre scenario far too quickly. They no longer seem scared, or even fazed by killing, as they sit surrounded by bloody bodies munching on snacks in their friends’ gore-spattered house. Your friends lay there murdered and you raid their pantry? That and Gabe even remarks that he wants to stay there as if to enjoy the spoils of their dead neighbors’ home. Worse still, moments later they are arguing who should drive their neighbors’ car based on who has the largest kill count after battling their neighbor’s vicious doubles. Really? Not sure what Peele was going for here, a message about society’s desensitization to violence, perhaps? Was it simply supposed to be funny? The Wilsons were portrayed as a nice, fun family up till this point, now they are bragging about body count. It’s just off-putting. The finale in mysterious tunnels beneath the boardwalk returns the film to a more unsettling tone and we get some answers that are weird and original. Thought the film, itself, is still left with a lot of questions. We also get a reveal that is not totally unexpected, but at this point it doesn’t add much. As the credits roll there is a sense that Peele is an inventive filmmaker with some interesting things on his mind, though the film itself is never quite as unnerving as Get Out, which was also ridiculously over-hyped.

The director has a good cast. Performances are not an issue here. Lupita Nyong’o is strong as Adelaide and her sinister yet tragic double “Red”. She’s a woman with some issues, but she rises above her fears to fight for her family. Winston Duke is also fun as the big teddy bear dad, Gabriel. He’s not as strong as his wife, but he seems like a good man. Shahadi Wright Joseph is good as the athlete of the family Zora and is very creepy as her doppelgänger Umbrae. Evan Alex also does good work as Jason and is extremely spooky as his burned faced copy, Pluto (a Hills Have Eyes reference maybe?). Rounding out are Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker as the before mentioned friends and neighbors, the Tylers. They seemed a little too superficial to be the type of people the WIlsons would hang with, but obviously they don’t last too long.

Overall, the film is far from a masterpiece and doesn’t come close to the hype, but is still worth a look for those curious. Peele is a talented filmmaker and has some inventive and clever ideas, but he hasn’t quite locked down a few things yet to make his flicks more than occasionally unnerving or unsettling. Evoking those emotions are not bad, but this film, especially, needed to be more consistent and never really got truly terrifying, though it had potential. There are some weird and unique ideas here that might stick with you, but it’s never quite scary enough to make it really special. Our likable family doing some questionable things that seem uncharacteristic, even in a scenario like this, also held it back. Peele may have a classic flick in him, but just not yet. Carpenter took a few films to get to his Halloween, hopefully Peele’s is on the horizon, too…it’s just not Us.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) shears.

 

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

February is the month where we mark the achievements of the black community and there have been some wonderful contributions to the world of horror films by some amazing talents. Whether it be black filmmakers like William Crain and Jordan Peele, or actors such as William Marshall, Pam Grier and Duane Jones, there is much to celebrate! Here are ten films that illustrate the sometimes groundbreaking and always entertaining achievements in the horror genre that this month so proudly commemorates!

REVIEW LINKS: click to read the corresponding review!

  1. Blacula
  2. Scream Blacula Scream
  3. Abby
  4. Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde
  5. Sugar Hill
  6. The House On Skull Mountain
  7. Candyman
  8. Tales from the Hood
  9. Night of the Living Dead
  10. Get Out

 

To all these talented men and women in front of and behind the camera…CHEERS!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GET OUT (2017)

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GET OUT (2017)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Get Out is another movie surround by massive hype that it does’t really live up to, but is certainly worth seeing. The film tells of young black man, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) going up to a wealthy white community to meet the parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). Chris immediately starts to feel something is wrong, as her parents are a little too eager to see him and appear open-minded to him. Worse still, the only black people he encounters are behaving quite strangely and the neighbors are a bit “off” to say the least. The longer he stays, the more he comes to believe something sinister is going on and he might be in danger if he stays…but will they let him leave?

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, this is a sort of combination of Stepford Wives and Disturbing Behavior with an African-American angle added. The film is obviously filled with statements on race relations and the status of black Americans in today’s world. And important though they be, the film’s messages were a little too obvious, at times, when subtlety was working much better, such as the party scene where Chris meets the neighbors. The film works best when dealing with paranoia and Chris not being sure if this hidden threat is real or imagined. Also, the flick isn’t nearly as scary as the hype surrounding it suggests, but Peele does create some nice atmosphere and tension and there are some scenes where there are some unsettling and yet darkly humorous moments. The film stumbles a bit with some intrusive comedy bits involving Chris’ TSA friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) and an over-the-top Franenstein-ish twist in it’s last act which dangerously borders on silly…though does work. It’s also obvious from the first scene at the house that Rose’s parents, Dean and Missy, are complete phonies, so it’s no surprise when we realize they are up to no good…and certain betrayals are also no surprise either, with that in mind. Peele still shows some strong potential, as he has a nice visual eye, constructed some spooky hallucinogenic sequences that are very effective and the last act has some impact as Chris enters in a fight for his life. There is some startling violence and the script is clever with connecting the dots from what we’ve seen during the course of the film to it’s big reveal. Not a great film, but one that works more than it doesn’t and shows that Peele has a cleverness to his writing we are interested in seeing more of.

Another thing that helps Peele is a good cast. Daniel Kaluuya makes for a down to earth, but solid hero. He is likable and seems like a genuinely nice guy. He conveys Chris’ paranoia well and even a reluctance as he is forced to act violently when thrust in a life and death situation. Catherine Keener nearly steals the show as Rose’s therapist mother. She oozes malevolence, once things get going and the sequences of her using her hypnotherapy on Chris are some of the creepiest in the film. Bradley Whitford is fine as Rose’s surgeon dad. He comes across as a bit too phony and obvious, though and his liberal banter to impress Chris comes across as exactly that and should have set alarms off right away. Allison Williams is also fine as Rose and while she doesn’t get much to do early on, she does deliver some nice malice once her true nature is revealed. Lil Rel Howery is the only character that I felt didn’t fit in. He is a little too over-the-top comic and that didn’t quite fit with the more subtly satirical nature of the rest of the film. He would be fine in an outright comedy, but his bits got in the way of the tension that Peele was trying to build. This seemed, however, due more to directing and script than an actor doing his job. Finally, Caleb Landry Jones is suitably creepy as Rose’s brother who is a little less eager to hide his true self and is the first character to signal to Chris that he may not be as welcome here as he is led to believe.

A horror masterpiece?…no…an instant classic?…not really, but once you ignore the hype and take it for what it is, it is an interesting horror debut from Jordan Peele that isn’t perfect, but has enough that works to make it worth a watch. While Peele’s messages and social commentary can be a little too obvious at times and the film’s comic moments are a bit intrusive, a slightly satirical slant keeps the film from getting too preachy, which is in it’s favor. There is also some nice tension, an engaging climax and some really good performances especially from our leading man and Keener’s villainous therapist. It’s not nearly as scary as over-active hype would suggest, but it does have some intense and purposely uncomfortable sequences and does leave one thinking about how we are seen by and behave toward our fellow Americans. So flaws aside, this makes Jordan Peele a filmmaker to watch and Get Out a film that warrants watching as well…just don’t let the hype set standards for the film that it cannot possibly live up to.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 deer…you’ll have to see the movie

 

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