Jordan Peele surprised a lot of people with his directorial debut, Get Out. I was one of those people. While I had been a fan of Peele's comedy for a long time, I had no idea what to expect when I sat down to watch his first horror movie. Looking back, it's still the best movie I've seen since February 2017, when it was released. When it was announced that Peele was working on his next project, a movie simply called Us, I was certainly excited. Now here I stand on the eve of being able to finally watch Peele's new movie and I'm confronting a serious problem.
I'm actually a little scared to see this movie.
I still remember the first time i saw the trailer for Us. It was just before Christmas last year. We knew the trailer was imminent; in fact, it was expected to be released online on Christmas Day, so when I went to the theater to do a little end-of-the-year awards season maintenance and watch The Favourite, I certainly wasn't expecting to see that trailer, not yet and not ahead of that movie, but there it was. Jordan Peele's name came up before anything started to get weird in the trailer, so I knew what I was watching, and as I sat in a mostly empty theater I watched one of the scariest trailers I have ever seen unfold over two minutes. Then The Favourite started and I'd be lying if i said I gave the film the proper attention, at least at the start. The trailer was still on my mind.
If you somehow have made it this far without seeing the first look at Us, here's a reminder of what I'm talking about.
I haven't seen anything scarier than that trailer since. In fact, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I have simultaneously been looking forward to Us, possibly more than any other movie this year, while also being terrified to actually see it.
Horror movies are a strange sort of animal. It's the one genre of film that you sometimes hear movie fans seemingly discounting in its entirety. If you hear somebody claim they love movies, but don't watch dramas, you'd wonder what the hell was wrong with them; however, if somebody says that about horror movies, we just move on like it's expected and even makes sense.
Frequently, movies that should be classified as horror get called something else, if only to avoid the stigma that can come along with the genre title. Get Out itself was one of these movies. It didn't have a murderous slasher antagonist or a series of brutal murders of or by teenagers, so by certain definitions, maybe it didn't qualify as a horror movie. It was a horror movie, of course, but if calling it a "thriller" helped Get Out do better at the box office, so be it.
Of course, all that was part of why Get Out worked so well. Because it was absolutely a horror movie, but one that didn't necessarily look that way at first. The film found its horrific elements in other places beyond simply violence. We didn't get the visual horror that we expect from a traditional "slasher movie." However, the scenario was pure nightmare fuel even if the villains didn't wear hockey masks.
And that's part of why Us is feeling so scary to me now now. Based on the early responses by those that saw Us at SXSW, it's clear the movie has more to say than the trailers are letting on, in much the same way that Get Out did, yet in addition to that, the movie also has those elements of "traditional horror" that make this one feel like it's going to be bloody and violent.
I've seen more than my share of horror movies in recent years, it's sort of my job now, but when I was a kid I was certainly one of those people who "didn't do horror." It wasn't so much that I avoided the genre, I simply didn't seek it out. The idea of being uncomfortable while watching a movie just didn't appeal to me -- it wasn't what I went to the movies for. When I did see them, horror movies didn't necessarily scare me, but they always made me nervous that they might.
Horror movies still make me nervous and uncomfortable to some extent now. I mean, they're supposed to, but never has it been like this. I didn't feel like this when I went to see IT, another movie that was actually one of my favorites in 2017. I'm just as excited to see that sequel later this year, without any of the stomach-churning dread that comes with Us.
Also, it should be noted, that "jump scares" get me all the time. Every. Single. Time. Even a movie I've seen before has about a 40% chance of making me spill something with a jump scare. When I'm seeing a movie for the first time, popcorn flying into the aisle is virtually guaranteed.
Everything about the Us trailer makes me uncomfortable in a way that I haven't felt in a really long time. The dark versions of the main characters feel not simply evil, but wrong. The way they look, the way they move, it all feels off. These are scariest movie monsters I've ever encountered, and I've only made it as far as the trailer.
Of course, what might make Us so potentially terrifying is that I'm also so incredibly excited to see it. I'm throwing myself to the wolves with this one in a way that I haven't with any other recent horror movie. It makes me feel vulnerable in a way that I don't usually let myself get with any movie. Even if it wasn't my job to see Us, I would be seeing the new movie from the man that brought us Get Out this weekend.
I have no idea what's in store for me when I see Us this week, although I'm prepared to be terrified on multiple levels. I may have to skip out on bringing snacks due to the aforementioned fear of throwing them all over the aisles. I can't wait.