New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: US at SXSW

You might have to be peeled off the ceiling watching Jordan Peele’s scariest foray yet into the horror genre. His goal? To scare the living daylights out of you and start a conversation. He deals with a whole lot of issues in this one. After the success of Get Out, Peele took a year to flesh this one out on a $20 mil budget, five times more than he had for his first horror film.

Dopplegangers wreak terror on a Black family on a family vacation and he says that’s what makes his film different. But there is also a lot of Peele comedy throughout. You’ll be screaming one minute and laughing the next. 

We saw the World Premiere of the film at SXSW in Austin, Texas and heard the stars talk about making the film in Q & A  and, again, in a more informal setting. Peele deals with a lot of issues throughout this movie. But we think he leaves a few loose ends that could have been fleshed out better. Peele’s inspiration for this film was an episode of the Twilight Zone called “Mirror Image.” Like Rod Serling intro of every episode “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.” No exception here. 

Each of the characters plays two roles and should be compensated twice for what they had to go through making this film. Peele says even he was surprised at the inner rage that was unleashed, particularly by Lupita Nyong’o and Elisabeth Moss in their committed performances. While Moss comes out as a flat out monster, Nyong’o gives an even more multi-faceted physical, emotional and vocal performance that is terrifying. Peele says that Lupita Nyong’o was his pick from the beginning to play Adelaide, the skittish Mom in this gut wrenching film. He also admitted that she literally found her own voice, halting, pain-filled and deeper, that comes out of her frightening alter ego. That scared him big time!

 

There are a couple of scenes the Writer/Director puts out there right away. It’s like a scavenger hunt for you to research yourself. Some biblical-looking dude shows up holding a sign that reads Jeremiah 11:11. He wants you to go on the hunt. And the “Hands Across America” commercial pops up on a TV back in the ‘80s that figures in the plot. And take note of the bunnies.

Peele then jumps 33 years later. Adelaide has managed to overcome her anxiety. Now she’s married and has a family of her own. Winston Duke (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame) is Gabe the love goof ball of a father who provides loads of laughs in this film. His scene in the cabin in bed and several scenes pleased with himself for earning his nautical chops with a boat that runs when it wants to are comedy gold. 

Shahadi Wright Joseph plays teen daughter, Zora, with plenty of love for her family, but also has attitude. She is one strong female, and we find out she really knows how to drive. And Evan Alex plays tween Jason who loves to wear a scary mask, do magic tricks, and annoy his sister. He seems weak, but may surprise you. 

Gabe talks Adelaide into taking a family vacation to meet up with his colleague Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker) and his shallow , egotistical, and overly materialistic wife, Kitty (Elisabeth Moss.) So are their spoiled twin daughters who the Wilson kids would sooner not be around. This adds to the fun.   

This family of dopplegangers shows up in their driveway at the cabin and it’s game on! Why are they there? What do they want? It gets violent and stays violent from then on. This is no walk in the woods.

It’s life or death all the way for everybody, even the dopplegangers. And it’s bloody violent. Of all the deadly objects employed in the film, Peele has chosen golden scissors as the weapon of choice. The scene when Adelaide is tethered to a glass coffee table is particularly notable. The image of the side of her face pushing down, reflected as the glass cracks, is an original piece of cinematography (Mike Gioulakis – Glass).

Does Peele’s second horror film meet expectations? It does, but not entirely. We found some loose ends in the plot and think that the Beach side fun house could have been used to more advantage. Peele wanted to pay homage to the traditional horror movie genre but just had to include his brand of comedy. It works and the film is good.  There is no scene wasted, but we don’t think it will be a classic. Plus the end leaves this film open for a possible sequel. Peele successfully sucks you in with comedy and that really does make the scary parts even more frightening. Just look out for Lupita! 

Universal Pictures   1 hour 56 minutes                     R

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