Us (2019): The Spirit of George A. Romero Lives On

After this movie, I’m going to have to read that Master/Slave dialectic again I suppose.

Y’know, it’s surprising, the real Argento film filmmakers seem to return to these days for inspiration, isn’t ‘Suspiria’, (which has been stripped of all possible influence and left at the bottom of the ocean like a discarded whale carcass), it really seems to be ‘Tenebrae’. Be it ‘Us’, or be it ‘Assassination Nation’, or even if you want to go there, ‘Funny Games’, filmmakers keep seeming to come back to the home invasion sequence in ‘Tenebrae’, and the visual storytelling involved in that. Say what you want about ‘Funny Games’ there are some astonishingly told set pieces, that whether Haneke likes it or not, use techniques developed by Argento. Us not only has that Argento filmmaking, technique, style influence, but his Joie de Vivre, or maybe better put, Joie de Film. It is like, watch-from-between-your-fingers tense and scary but also achingly funny, belly laughs all around. The performances are pretty universally astonishing also. 

I wish to touch on one personal element that really affected me though. I grew up with an ASD, (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), the disorder itself doesn’t really have a proper name, the one it does have is a cop-out answer for, “basically, we don’t know what the fuck is up with your kid”. Anyway, I digress. There was one specific car scene where the child in ‘Us’, who clearly has an ASD, is fiddling with a little joke toy of his, which is not only feeding an ASD obsession of his but also providing sensory stimulation, on a long-distance car journey, and it starts a fight in the family and suddenly I was back to when I was 12. This problem was a lot worse in the sort of 8-14 period. Having an ASD is like, your head is filled with white noise at all times, and when relief comes it’s like getting in cool water on a hot and dry day. You’ll do anything to stop the noise, and sensory stimulation is quite good at that. It’s why I used to have endless fights with my Mum about how I really could only really focus on work when I had music playing, it drowned out the noise for a bit. I used to tap my knee a lot because I just needed something to vent out the energy wrapping around my brain. My older sister would get annoyed, and the understanding parents wouldn’t know who to support and suddenly this unavoidable thing that the child can’t help means everyone hates him but knows they shouldn’t. It’s done, just right, just like it was. It affected me deeply and I want to thank Jordan Peele for doing that justice. 

This does tie into a wider point about the film. If I had to describe it in one word, that’d be ‘cathartic’. This film was an exercise in the build-up and cathartic release of tension. That moment where Peele took me back to my worse years was cathartic because I saw it happen and I thought that for a moment something was happening that was true to something about me that’s never been spoken to truly before. It is cathartic in the way it deals with social unrest, the way it allegorises social mobility so effectively. I will be turning over what the ending means in my brain, and not just the very end but the whole last act, for months. How does it affect the allegory, does it save it or break it? What exactly is going on here? Fascinating, and I LOVE a film that will do that. Now, you could pick the ending apart all you want for logical flaws and errors, but honestly what would be the point? Fool’s errand, an utter fool’s errand. What is much more fun, is watching the film and letting Peele’s infectious enthusiasm for horror wash over you. 

People keep trying to peg Peele in a box, “The New Spielberg”, “The New Hitchcock”. Whilst I broadly agree with the idea that this is pointless and we should let him develop his own voice at his own pace, I want to make an interesting comparison, Romero. Now, whilst Romero could most definitely be bleak, what he’s known for, is bombastic and fun and, (keyword here), satirical, but also terrifying. Think ‘Creepshow’, think ‘Dawn of the Dead’, think ‘Day of the Dead’, (which is really fun and I WILL FIGHT YOU), anyway. This seems to be Peele’s forte, unpicking social unrest with wit and invention but also the teeth to truly terrify. 

If you couldn’t already tell, I REALLY LIKED IT!


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