We run to the fortune teller, because of course we do. Down the boardwalk and into the black where the sand runs cold and wet. On the beach is everyone else, everyone you want to be, and we the watchers are momentarily warmed by the light that illuminates them and blocks out the world, until we the world recoil, into our own bodies, cold and wet as the sand we disappear. Have you ever noticed that the painted woods appear when we look for them and that they change when we see them change. That tree wasn’t there last time, or maybe it just wasn’t so dark out. And do you ever wonder what happened to the other you, that night when you were six you leapt for your bed but fell just short, when you landed with one foot on the ground and the air left your body and you felt it grab your ankle? Me neither.
Us is an earnest work of textural comic derangement, that like any enduring thing pursues an affective excess ahead of an amateur’s concern with legibility. Peele understands that fear and laughter come from the same place, but it’s with Us that he draws from the murk and lets go without first deciding what form it will take. In this sense it more organically mines the pool of unease than its celebrated predecessor, which after the perfectly compounding first act uses one catharsis to alleviate the other. Us is unruly, nearly unconscious in its commitment to fast and loose thematics and secret bizarre vignettes where any reaction is valid provided it’s freaked out. It is one to chew on, to get lost in, to misread and make up with. It’s a move beyond the tastefully anaemic and safe allusion to something rasping and hideous, a work that’s never as good as it should be but which is always thinking and feeling in excess of where your head has placed it. Almost as a challenge then it demands to be felt before and after anything else.