The Shadows of “Us”

22 min readMar 29, 2019

Us” represents Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort as American cinema’s latest auteur. Following the highly inventive, social commentary-laden, and award-winning Get Out, Peele and his production company Monkeypaw Productions decided to go arguably even more ambitious in Us with premise, characterization, and bone-chillingly existential horror. I think the film is a masterpiece. After having seen it only once, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Not since Inception have I been so paralyzingly fascinated with a film and its many-layered storytelling and well-crafted mythos. Us and its indelible imagery (and unspoken messages) also happened to have terrified me to my core. {To Jordan: Great job! 👍} Here are my {rather wide-ranging} thoughts on the themes and revelations in Jordan Peele’s work thus far in the horror genre and within the film Us.

Peele’s Twilight Zonian ‘premises’

Jordan Peele comes from a background of comedy {see: Mad TV, Key & Peele}. Specifically, his art has been sketch comedy. When considering the origin and purpose of what a ‘sketch’ actually is, it isn’t so difficult to see Peele’s impressive turn as a newly iconic horror filmmaker. In a sketch, the improviser/writer {or group of them} starts with a premise. That is, a scenario, situation or circumstance especially absurd in nature. This premise is then utilized by the creator or improviser for the express purpose of drawing out some short scene or vignette to comedic ends. Whether simplistic or complex in nature, the parameters of the premise are generally easily conveyed, or progressed upon, to the eyes and ears of the audience. The best sketches, or at least the most ambitious, will go to the most naturally (or unnaturally) extremified endgame of said premise to wring out every last drop of potential comedic material. Go watch any Key & Peele sketch and witness the escalation at play.

However, for Peele, and other masters of sketch comedy, when it really works it is moreso because of the effectiveness of the execution, than it is the creativity of the premise alone. Oddly enough, ideas are cheap. To make something hit, one has to get to the bottom of why “something’s” hit generically, and then thrum a new note in that song…