Updated: Feb 8
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; R for violence/terror and profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Movies Anywhere, Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Five featurettes form a making-of experience
“GET OUT” was the beginning. Now Writer/Director Jordan Peele follows his Oscar winner with another creepy allegory.
Think of "Us" as a “thoughtful popcorn movie,” an original concept exploring humanity's dark side. Like comedy, there’s something crazy going on, but it’s grounded in reality, Peele says in the five featurettes enclosed on the release from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
The monsters come from within. It opens in 1986, with a promo for “Hands Across America,” an event that was supposed to end homelessness and hunger. Many contributed $10 to reserve a place, but other than the feel-good vibe, it had no effect. Young tween Adelaide (Madison Curry) is visiting the Santa Cruz amusement park with her parents when she becomes separated from them. She wanders into a spooky, deserted Fun House – and finds another girl who looks exactly like her.
Adelaide is dragged away. The next time we see her she’s become mute and is visiting her doctor who prescribes art therapy. Adelaide studies art and takes up ballet, and becomes very good at both.
Jump ahead some years and she’s become a wife to Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke, “Black Panther”), and mother to two children: young teen Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and pre-teen Jason (Evan Alex). Adelaide reluctantly agrees to a summer vacation in her late mother’s Santa Cruz home, with family and friends played by Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker. Adelaide, now played by Lupita Nyong’o, is right to feel alarm. Something’s going on among the city’s vagrants. Just as she’s insisting they leave, they see another family of four standing together at the end of their driveway. Life will never be the same.
Most of us saw this much in the previews. To describe more will spoil a carefully crafted film. The actors all play two roles: a standard citizen and their doppelgänger collectively called the Tethered. Most are dressed in red jumpsuits, and their faces and movements are downright creepy. One fact’s for sure, Lupita Nyong’o gives an amazing performance as Adelaide and Red. Every actor in “Us” plays at the top of their game.
“There’s this expanding idea of what the word ‘us’ means,” Peele says. “‘Us’ can mean many different things. The only thing consistent about the idea … is when you have an ‘us,’ you have a ‘them.’”
“Jordan is making his favorite movie all the time, so that kind of enthusiasm is infectious.” — Lupita Nyong’o
Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis uses some of the same film techniques we saw in “It Follows” and “Split.” “Us” was digitally filmed at 3.4K and mastered at 2K. It looks very good on both 1080p and 2160p formats (2.39:1 aspect ratio). Contrast and brightness are excellent, and looks especially good in night scenes. Lights glow in the dark; the Tethered appear out of nowhere; a daylight fire roars and flickers boldly, but is not overdone. The 4K offers more detail and nuanced definition among the shadows; its HDR10 and Dolby Vision color also provides more lifelike color and texture, yet those watching the 1080p presentation will not be disappointed. “The red jumpsuit. Just the idea of being able to utilize a flash of red going by in the darkness to signify your monster” is electrifying, Peele notes.
“Horror has always been the way that I personally deal with my own fears. I love the genre for that reason, and I love the horror aesthetic.” — Jordan Peele
Sound is delivered through a choice between Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD eight channel tracks on both discs. Atmos is especially active, delivering effects throughout the room, with impressive height action. It begins in the opening amusement park sequence, and later during break-ins, fight and flight scenes.
Dialogue is always clear from humans and doppelgängers demonstrating the unique vocal range of each performance. Bass lines are particularly dynamic, featuring sudden depth that shakes the room.
Michael Abels, who also composed the score for “Get Out,” delivers a haunting theme reminiscent of “The Omen,” with its broken cholr and classical leitmotif. Pop music creates ironic touchstones, including “Pride,” Kendrick Lamar; “Good Vibrations,” Beach Boys; “Le Fleurs,” Minnie Riperton; “Save Me,” Ramaj Eroc; “Hypnotize – 2014 Remaster,” The Notorious B.I.G.; “If I Ruled the World,” Nas, Lauryn Hill, and many more.
“Jordan is truly the definition of an auteur filmmaker. He’s one of the most talented filmmakers working today.” — Jason Blum, producer
Bonus features are found on both the Blu-ray and Ultra 4K discs. They’re generally short, but Peele, his cast, and producer Jason Blum have plenty to say. Five featurettes form a making-of experience: “The Monsters Within Us” explores the duality of human nature; “Tethered Together: Making ‘Us’ Twice,” is about how the actors played dual roles; "Redefining a Genre: Jordan Peele’s Brand of Horror,” where he talks about his love of horror movies and what he tried to accomplish in “Us”; “The Duality of ‘Us,’” and “Becoming Red,” shows how Nyong’o stayed in character for the performance.
“Scene Explorations” gives a closer look at three major sequences. There are six deleted/extended scenes, while “As Above, So Below: Grand Pas De Deux” shows a complete ballet sequence, which was edited for the film.
Horror fans should enjoy Peele’s references to classic films: “Lost Boys,” “The Shining,” “Jaws,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and others. It’s easy to watch “Us” as a straightforward horror thriller. Others will find deeper, scarier themes as unsettling as what Peele showed us in “Get Out.”
“All great horror has a social message of some sort. When it works, it’s tapping into something that we’re suppressing,” Peele concludes. “I have a definite world of things that I’m trying to say with this film all relating to our duality as human beings, and the guilt and sins that we bury deep within ourselves. I’m curious to see what the audience sees in it.”
— Kay Reynolds