Adam: Josh, most of the time we come straight from a screening to the studio to record a review. We don't really need to point out to the audience that it's a "still processing" review. We could probably get away with it and our listeners would believe that we had been thinking about the movie for a day or two. But I don't remember the last time I truly felt regret that we had to record under these circumstances and couldn't devote more time to a movie, because "Us" is a movie that requires some processing.
Josh: [Laughs] It wasn't Captain Marvel?
Josh: You didn't need an extra day for that?
Adam: Probably not.
Josh: Yeah... I could use a little more time... but let's just do it. We don't have the time.
Adam: Yeah, let's just do it. We are going to point out right off the top here that this might be one of the shorter Filmspotting reviews ever, because it's not just a movie that could use a little bit of spoiler talk. I don't really think you can talk about the film much at all, beyond its surface pleasures or disappointments, without getting into spoiler talk. So we will be very clear about it at some point. We will transition into full blown spoilers. Hopefully you will have seen the movie or have time to see it and can come back to the review. We'll make sure for our radio listeners they aren't bombarded with a bunch of spoiler talk they don't want to hear. They'll have to go to filmspotting.net or to iTunes and download the podcast if they are curious to hear more. Again, we will give you plenty of warning.
A little bit of background on the movie. We did mention that we went into the movie totally blind. I think we both saw the teaser trailer which didn't reveal too much. I do have the plot synopsis in front of me, and I think that gives us a starting point here. Lupita Nyong'o is Adelaide. She has two kids and a husband, played by Winston Duke. She went through a traumatic experience as a young girl, maybe about the same age as her son in the film The daughter is a little bit older. And we see that event play out at the very beginning of the film, and it reasserts itself in her mind as she goes on vacation with her family and happens to visit the same town and beach where the event occurred. At some point there is a home invasion situation that involves four people who seem to look just like the four members of the family in question. Does that cover it?
Josh: Yeah, and I think, as you said, the two of us only saw that teaser. All of those things were in it. So I think we're on safe ground there. This is pretty well-known, unless you did even a firmer job than we did of not trying to learn anything about "Us."
Josh: And I... we probably for the [first] few minutes ahead, we will not proceed much further than those basic things.
Adam: We won't. So my question for you...[laughs].
Adam: ...as we try to get into this film, as we said, without revealing too much. We sat down and happened to find seats at our screening right next to our Next Picture Show colleagues Keith Phipps and Scott Tobias, and at one point Keith turned to you, just a few minutes before the movie started, and I think he asked, "How scary is this going to be?" Genuine question! Just wanting your thoughts on whether or not this is a movie where writer-director Jordan Peele was really going to be pushing the thrills and the chills and trying to really frighten us. The conversation segwayed a little bit into one about how his previous film, "Get Out," had some of those same horror and gore elements to it, but of course had bigger matters on its mind. So the question became, "Would this film behave similarly?" I guess my question for you is does Jordan Peele here have something on his mind beyond horror, or are the thematics, or any satirical elements like we saw in "Get Out," completely secondary to the craft? And on those terms alone, does this movie work or fail?
Josh: Yeah, well, if we go back real quickly to, "Get Out," you know that was thought of or described as a horror comedy, simply because of Peele's background. I just looked up my review of "Get Out," to see how I characterized it, and I've got the line in there that says, ""People are describing this as a horror comedy. But it's pure terror." I think that is the case with "Us," first and foremost. This is terrifying. Now, with "Get out," I would say the bigger matters, as you describe them, are very much at the forefront.
Adam: Of course.
Josh: They're in the setup, in the premise.
Adam: Race is a conversation literally from the opening scene.
Josh: Exactly. So "Us," is a little craftier. But I do think, and we'll save this for spoilers, it is getting at something.
Adam: I do too.
Josh: I'm not entirely sure of what I think. So we'll work that out together.
Josh: And maybe that is... Is that better or worse? I don't think it matters. It's just a little bit different of an approach, whereas we know what we're supposed to be thinking about at the beginning, in "Get Out." In "Us," we know we're supposed to be scared out of our minds — because we are, fairly quickly.
Josh: And then, the shock, as we start to process what's going on, maybe we can find spaces here or there. Maybe the movie provides us a few clues here or there to start thinking about. Is there a metaphor at work here? Is there something that... You know in my mind as a fan of horror, I'm always looking for that other level that gives it... The craft of horror is one reason I love the genre, and "Us," has a ton of craft. I'll answer your question right away on that as well. Absolutely, there's a ton of craft here. But I do think there's more going on, and so I think that puts it in "Get Out," territory. I mean, again, you know, we don't have to always hold these movies up against each other. That was such a phenomenon, such a surprise from Jordan Peele. You know, maybe there is some concern or wondering is he gonna be able to do it again. I don't think he's done exactly it, but he's done something that is similar — just as invigorating, just as troubling. And I like to think in these few minutes I've been out of it, just as insightful. I just got to dig that out a little more.