“What if I just showed four episodes of This Is Us with no explanation?” Jordan Peele teased Austin’s packed Paramount Theatre audience, on hand to see the world premiere of his new horror thriller Us.
The Oscar-winning writer-director screened the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2017 blockbuster Get Out to a fairly steady stream of gasps, screams, and laughs from South By Southwest attendees (the film has more humor than you might expect). As revealed in its trailer (above), the story follows a family of four — led by Black Panther co-stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke — during a summer beach vacation where they’re menaced by a quartet of feral doppelgänger with murderous motives.
Without giving away any spoilers, Peele, once again, has more on his mind than popcorn thrills, presenting an allegory for a divided nation. In the movie, when one of the evil twins is asked who they are, the reply is, “We’re Americans”; even the title, Us, could also be seen as “U.S.”
After the screening, Peele was asked in a Q&A to explain what his film was about. After initially ducking the Big Theme question, he came back with an on-point summation: “I have a very clear meaning and commentary I’m trying to strike with this film. I’m also trying to design a film that’s very personal for every individual. On the broader strokes of things, this movie is about this country,” he said. “When I decided to write this movie I was stricken by the fact that we’re in a time where we fear The Other — whether it’s the mysterious invader we think is going to come and kill us or take our jobs, or the faction we don’t live near that voted a different way than us. We’re all about pointing the finger. I wanted to suggest maybe the monster we really need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil is us.”
Here are some of the reactions from viewers so far:
In the film, the lead actors (which also include Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) also play their wicked doubles. Peele praised his stars for their dedication to the roles. “[The actors] developed two characters and not just in a two-dimensional way but in a three, four-dimensional way, and I really got everybody’s individual crazy out of them and for that I’m forever proud of them,” he said, and added, “Lupita scared the s— out of me.”
Us opens wide March 22.