Bonus Watching: Us (2019) and Hereditary (2018)
List Progress: 5/12 (+6)
Someday I’ll actually get back to the real list, but quarantine apparently gives me a hankering for modern cerebral horror.
After really enjoying director Jordan Peele’s last horror film, Get Out, I was excited for Us, even as I had heard mixed things. But I have ended up very much agreeing with those mixed emotions. This tale of a family being attacked by a batch of doppelgangers has a lot of great moments and scenes, but it feels like they never quite coalesce together. More than anything, I feel like the film is trying to do too much: too many characters, too many set pieces, too many rules of the world, too many tones.
I think Us would be strengthened greatly by a firm editing, condensing the sets and the scope. While the mother Adelaide is very much the main character, each member of the family of four has their own dynamic with their double and the four pairs spend a great deal of time separated from each other. This dilutes the tension of each individual set-up and causes a lot of cutting back and forth, which neuters some of the great atmosphere that is otherwise building.
Us has a lot of great performances and great ideas, but it lacks the focus and precision of Get Out, which unfortunately is its natural direct comparison. I am still looking forward to all the future work Jordan Peele puts out, but this one didn’t land as well.
Would I Recommend It: A soft yes.
For the majority of its runtime, Hereditary is a tense, twisting tale of a family suffering from generations of mental illness and the trauma inherent therein. It is so dense and uncomfortable to watch, but you can’t look away from Toni Collette’s performance as the mother Annie, trying to cope with the recent death of her mother and the splintering of her immediate family: her husband, teenage son and young daughter. The movie nails the family drama and unwinding of these characters so well, that a pivot to the explicitly supernatural at the ends up feeling more like a detraction than a relief. This might be a case where a movie does one thing too well, and the other parts end up feeling under-served.
I don’t want to go too far into spoilers, but the conclusion of the film held a lot of elements that I wish had been developed earlier and given time to breathe. The majority of the film is incredibly strong, but unfortunately endings are what you walk away with the most feelings about, and Hereditary stumbles a bit at the finish line. But it’s still a journey worth taking, and worth going in as blind as you can.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.