Us: Analysis, Themes, and Theories

Us is a pretty great sci-fi/horror film that’s worthy of the recent buzz.

Us is directed and written by Jordan Peele who wrote and directed 2017’s Get Out and stars Lupita N’yongo, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker. It tells the story of a family that goes on vacation to Santa Cruz, only to have their vacation cut short when they find a strange doppelganger family in their backyard, attempting to terrorize them and murder them. The film then turns into a story of survival as the family must escape Santa Cruz alive, while also stopping the doppelganger family from following them. I chose not to do a regular review for this one. My short recommendation for this movie is that you should at least see it at some point if you are interested. I think this film is super weird, fun, and suspenseful and it’s a great time at the movies. I will say, however, that I after I had the chance to view this film again, there were many issues I found throughout this film that seemed to negatively affect my experience the second time watching it. It wasn’t any issues with the film making really, I just found some plot holes and other inconsistencies with the film that didn’t make sense for me. In order to really discuss this film in full detail, I need to do an analysis instead. Not only because I wanted to talk about the themes of what this film has to offer, which does intrigue me, but also because I want to talk about the elements of this film that frustrated me and caused me to not enjoy it nearly as much the second time around.

SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE FILM SPOILED FOR YOU!

The film starts off as we see Lupita N’yongo’s character, Adelaide, as a young child at a fair at Santa Cruz in 1986. She is with her mother and father, and the father seems to be drunk and playing many carnival games. This clearly frustrates the mother as he is paying little to no attention to the daughter. But when the mother leaves to go to the bathroom and the father plays another carnival game, neglecting to keep an eye on his daughter, she wanders off to the beach below where she finds a hall of mirrors in which she comes across a version of herself who seemingly “traumatizes” her leaving her unable to speak. Years later, she’s grown up, had a family, and they suggest that they take a vacation to Santa Cruz every summer. In the film, we see she is nervous the entire time while there because she seems to remember an incident that scarred her for life at the beach. The film then cuts as the family is outside trying to get in so they can murder them. The version of Adelaide, Red, that seemed to traumatize her is now in front of her face again as she had predicted would happen.

Luckily, the family is able to escape their home, but when they try to go to their friends’ house for help, a family with a father played by Tim Heidecker and a mother played by Elizabeth Moss, they find that the doppelganger of their family has already murdered them, which leads them to more danger. They are able to escape but are stopped when Red captures Jason, their son, and takes him into the underground where they all reside. It is at this moment that we find out that Red explains that there is a whole society of people like her down below who mimic their actions from up above, but never get to go up there. In retaliation, she plans on killing everyone and starting their own society above ground. They also re-create the Hands Across America protest from the 1980’s to symbolize their new dominance over the country. If you don’t know, the Hands Across America event was one in which people all across the country joined hands with each other to make one big line across the entire country from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to support the end of hunger in Africa. After Adelaide and Red fight each other, with Adelaide stabbing Red winning the fight, she leaves the underground with her son. We then see a flashback in which it turns out at the beach the day young Adelaide came across her young look a like self at the hall of mirrors, the doppelganger chokes Adelaide, damaging her vocal chords and forcing her underground. In other words, the Adelaide we have been following the whole time is actually the former doppelganger from below all along.

I love this film as it’s a fun, suspenseful horror flick with some great themes and satire.

This is a film that has so much strange elements to it that I cannot help but love and further recommend you check out. I’m really happy that we are able to get original ideas like this still out in theaters, and I’m glad that many people are actually coming out to support these flicks. I love the creativity that this film has to offer and I love that this film can create a concept and a universe that feels like it would be potentially terrifying to inhabit. I would personally be horrified if I found a doppelganger version of myself was trying to murder me. Since it is assumed they are a version of me, they think like me. Because of this, they know what traps I’ll fall for, what scares me, and what especially hurts me. A doppelganger of myself would truly f— me up! It’s a very strange yet brilliant concept that I’m surprised no other filmmaker has ever been able to put up on screen until this point, but I’m glad that this exists now. If you were to analyze its themes that is is clearly going for, it seems to be an allegory for class society and the way we treat and see others because of it. It can also be seen as an allegory for guilt and regret as Adelaide regrets having done what she did to her other self. If you need another interpretation, this could also be seen as an allegory for race relations in the US. Perhaps the people above are the elite race and the ones below are the minorities. This would make sense as Jordan Peele’s last film Get Out dealt with race relations and mocked individuals who would claim to fight for social justice rights for African Americans and Black Americans, but actually end up exploiting them for their victim-hood instead. Jordan Peele does a really great job with creating these horror stories with really great satire implemented into it.

I do have to admit that upon a second viewing, I found many inconsistencies within this movie, which is unfortunate.

There’s a ton of plot holes that come up when you decide to watch this movie again. It’s unfortunate to me to see these because there are instances that I know I shouldn’t be thinking about or acknowledging, but I just can’t help but ask these questions when I see these moments. There’s only going to be a few highlight ones that I acknowledged when watching this movie, but I know for a fact there’s plenty more if you want to examine the film even further. The first question I have with this movie comes at the beginning when Adelaide is nervous about being in Santa Cruz and going to the beach. This is apparently a vacation that they go on every year, as hinted several times throughout the film, so my question is did Adelaide ever get this way in previous years going on this trip? If that’s the case why do they keep coming back. They never acknowledge that she might have gotten this way in year’s past, it’s just a new thing that they realized now. And okay, even if she doesn’t get nervous while at Santa Cruz, do any of them know that she had a traumatic experience at Santa Cruz when she was younger? She doesn’t have to explain it in full detail, but did she ever suggest that she went through a troubling event growing up? And I know a potential defense for that is “she just gets that way when she hears they’re going to the beach” which is fine, but what else do they do there then? I know this seems really nitpicky, but I can’t help but think that they would stop taking this trip by now if it made her as upset as it clearly seems to in this instance. I don’t know, I feel like she would have eventually brought it up at some point that she went through such an experience.

My next questions involve the underground itself. What they suggest is that for every action that takes place above ground, there is a duplicate action taking place underground. Now there’s many actions that the characters below are seen doing that are identical to the ones up above. For example, some will be riding a roller coaster, others will be playing a carnival game, and others will be walking around the carnival. The people riding the roller coaster aren’t moving locations, they are only moving in their seats like it’s a simulator ride at Universal Studios (roasted). This would perhaps make sense because they end up in the same location as before. But what if someone up above is driving a car. They don’t end up in the same location like a roller coaster would. What about if someone up above goes in a direction and the person below is blocked by a wall? Do they go around the wall and catch up with the people above later? Now what about if someone decides to go swimming in an ocean, lake, or river? Are there tunnels below for at least a potential several miles away from the shores of these bodies of water? What about travelling internationally? They suggested that the tunnels are only in the United States, but if someone travels to Europe or Asia, do the doppelgangers still follow them across the seas? How would they get there at the same amount of time as the people above? If the people above take a 12 hour flight to China, perhaps, would the doppelganger follow the person all the way to China. A person cannot physically travel over 600 miles/hour across oceans without vehicular assistance such as an airplane. And if they did find a way to travel 600 miles/hour across oceans underground, those tunnels that lead to areas beyond the United States must be really deep below the ocean. That could almost be potentially tens of thousands of feet below water. This given that the tunnels themselves are already likely around 100-250 ft. below the surface already. Explorers haven’t even been to the lowest depths of many of these oceans. The truth is we have no idea what’s going on down there. Did someone build those tunnels then that are over 35,000-40,000 feet below the ocean? And finally, when Adelaide goes to confront Red and Red explains to her the world that exists underground, it makes sense from a narrative stand point as we as the audience do not understand what is going on, but given the end of the film, Adelaide already knows how this universe works. She’s lived there for much of her childhood, she probably remembers it pretty well.

Honestly I could go on all day listing off the various things that don’t make sense about this universe. I will defend Peele, however, in that he probably did not have much time to explain this universe or set up the rules of it properly. If they ever choose to do a follow up to this movie (which seems unlikely) they would certainly answer these questions. This could potentially lead to really fun discussions and debates to have with your friends. Even though these plot holes slightly take me out of the movie, I do look forward to showing this movie to friends maybe who haven’t seen it or to watching it again with friends who are already fans of it like I am. And I think that is what makes this movie special. For all its plot holes, this movie seems to understand how to keep the audience engaged and entertained. It’s weird and different and definitely a very different film from Get Out. I wouldn’t say it’s so much scary as it is suspenseful. It is creepy, from the perspective of the children, to see your dad being dragged out of your house by a man that looks exactly like him, and it’s also creepy thinking about coming across your own killer doppelganger. Again, they know how you think, and they know how to instill the most painful and horrific death upon you. Overall, this is a really fun movie to converse with your friends about. I think it now makes sense why I wanted to get into spoilers with this one. I don’t know. I will probably keep doing more of these spoiler filled reviews as I tend to find they are much more fun then the traditional non spoiler review. I did a very similar thing with the film Climax and that was a ton of fun, so we’ll see. Expect that with Avengers: Endgame I’ll do the same style of review so I can just get into every little nook and cranny with that one.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

Is Dumbo Worth Your Time?

Dumbo is an Unnecessary Disney Remake that has No Purpose for Existing.

So awhile ago, I went and watched the new version of Dumbo, and it was not good. The truth about Dumbo is that this is more of a product than anything else. Disney is a company that I’ve recently had less and less respect for, especially given the growing monopoly that they are beginning to have on the entertainment industry. They release movies to trick the audience into believing that they care about your childhood and the things you loved growing up, but they are actually cashing in on the nostalgia you have of these iconic films and franchises from your past. They’re forcing Pixar to constantly spam of sequels, and they’re pushing out Star Wars movies to the point where “Star Wars Fatigues” now reigns after the (arguably) disastrous releases of The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Somehow, DC has been making better movies than Marvel, and most egregiously, they’re also spamming out live action remakes of classic 2D animated Disney films. I know I keep using the word “spamming” when describing the release of these films, but that’s what it feels like to me. In 2019 alone, we’re getting FOUR other live action remakes. FOUR! Tell me that’s not spamming. After this, we’re getting Aladdin, The Lion King, Maleficent 2, and Lady and the Tramp, which the latter will be exclusively for Disney+.

With all the complaining about Disney’s evil and conniving business methods out of the way, what makes this movie as flawed as it is?

It’s been probably more than ten years since I’ve seen the original film, but what I remember from it, it told the story of a little baby elephant at a circus who was bullied by his peers for having big ears, but learns to use them to his advantage as he discovers he can actually fly with these ears. He also tries to get his mother back after she goes crazy and puts another circus goer in danger. The remake tells a similar story but adds human characters to it and their struggle to keep a financial living in this little traveling circus they work for. Colin Farrell is the father of two children that he must take care of at the travelling circus but finds it difficult to do so after he discovers upon coming back from war that his wife has past away. Also,Danny Devito is the owner of the circus that agrees to make a partnership with a powerful entrepreneur, played by Michael Keaton.

So if I knew this Movie was Gonna be so Bad, why did I see it?

The reason I went and saw this movie was because I knew it would be directed by Tim Burton. Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors, and he’s the man who personally inspired me to make movies. He has so many classic and wonderful films, and I have nothing but respect for the creativity and imagination he has running through his crazy little brain. Although I acknowledge that his film Alice in Wonderland was the reason this whole trend of live action remakes started, at least that movie had a creative and unique voice to it. I had hoped that even if this movie wasn’t good, it would at least be a special and weird experience brought to you by the great Tim Burton.

And I have to say, this is not the worst of the Disney live action remakes. This film does has a voice of some kind. The choice to cast Eva Green, Danny Devito, and Michael Keaton who are all previous collaborators with Burton (see Miss Peregrine’s and Batman Returns), as well as the general aesthetic this movie presents throughout its production design (that isn’t a green screen) gives this movie a certain vibe that only Burton is capable of. The cinematography was neat, although the color palate was sometimes foggy, but not terribly distracting, and there was admittedly a very fun sense of adventure throughout this movie. And even though I knew exactly where this movie was gonna go, I wanted to see that adventure still play out.

Despite admiring Burton’s aesthetic, there are unfortunately some serious issues within the film making here.

When Dumbo isn’t allowing you to enjoy the magic and wonder that comes with seeing an elephant fly at a circus, it gives you a very awkward and otherwise poorly made film with no real personality within its script. If Tim Burton hadn’t directed this script, this would have easily could have been one of the soulless movies I had ever seen. The visual effects are terrible and look very fake given the standards of today’s movies. The acting from the kids is so bad it would take me out of the movie entirely, and the script is stupid, boring, and has no pay off or important themes to spread.

Oftentimes, characters will touch or look at Dumbo and they’ll be totally off from where he actually is. They’ll brush his little body and be missing him by about a few inches. The young girl in this movie also has a scene where she looks at Dumbo and she is not even staring at Dumbo directly, but instead off in the distance somewhere. Did they not use markers or anything to guide the actors and help them to give a better performance. Speaking of which, the girl in this movie is absolutely horrible. I feel bad because she is a little kid and I know it’s hard to act, but she just was unable to attempt to display any emotions whatsoever. She would literally stare at Dumbo flying through the circus tent with a straight face. I could tell she’s supposed to act amazed or something when this happens, because the little boy who’s even younger than her acting with her is much better than she is. It doesn’t help either that her character is just “female STEM major” and that’s it. Not saying there’s anything wrong with females entering the major; in fact I encourage it. It’s just that they make her trait of being a female scientist her only personality trait. It’s a problem that even feminists are having an issue with in current films that feature young girls. It’s a poor representation of a group of people who inspire others and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Overall, Dumbo was thankfully not a complete waste of time due to Burton’s good direction and production design, but is otherwise a film you should have no problem skipping.

It was a boring movie with bad effects, bad acting, and a bad script. I recommend you skip this movie and see Us, Shazam!, or even Pet Semetary instead. These are all films that are much better and made by people who care, at least a little bit, of the films they are putting out there. And you can’t even shift the blame onto Burton. The issues come from the studio for making this the way they did. I know I seem angry talking about this movie, but I think it’s more because I know it’s behind a company that only cares about spamming out products as quickly as possible and generating online buzz and coverage about their movies in the process. The movie alone really just made me want to fall asleep, which is never a good thing to experience with a movie. If you’re also sick of Disney making these pointless remakes that are only designed to be second place to the original anyways, then speak with your wallets and skip this one. I used my AMC A-List for this one, so hopefully theirs not as much blood on my hands.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

Possum (2018) – Film Review

A Temporary Glimpse into the World of Possum (2018): An Absolutely Gripping Fever Dream of a Film.

All Bones, No Meat

I like my films how I like my sexual encounters; confusing, without context, and unsure of what’s going on for the majority of the time. A wise man (me) once said media is best experienced when you have the least amount of context going into them. No trailers, no spoilers, just a cool-sounding title and a summary of a few sentences to spice up your interest. So when it comes to the 2018 film Possum, directed by Matthew Holness, here it is:

A small talking man, aged by torment, has returned to his childhood home after serving in the military. After his service, he takes up puppeteering, but it doesn’t go too well. Maybe because his puppet is a giant disgusting, wound-ridden spider with a human head, glass eyes, and a hundred-yard stare. The house he returns to isn’t empty though; when he arrives he finds his filthy uncle Maurice has been living there for some time now. The plot revolves around dream-like montages of our dear puppeteer Philip returning to different places significant to his childhood as he attempts to figure out the secrets of his past and the house he now lives in.

There’s your summary. That’s ALL you get. Go watch it, it’s fantastic, I gave it 4/5 stars (that’s a high score from me). If you feel intrigued but don’t care about spoilers, or if you’ve already watched it, stay for a bit while I go into detail about this film, and probably end up digging deeper than necessary.

*TRIGGER WARNING: This film includes themes of abuse and sexual assault. If you are uncomfortable with these concepts or themes please don’t watch/read about this film. If you or someone you know is dealing with abuse trouble and need help, call this number:
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline – 800.656.HOPE (4673)
Thank you and enjoy the rest of the review.*

 

!!! SPOILER WARNING !!!

All Meat, Boneless

Alright sweet, now that we’ve thinned the herd a little bit, let’s talk about this movie.

Possum (2018) follows what I would call “dream logic.” Numerous scenes of the film happen out of order or with fractures in between, with the camera taking a break from what’s really happening to Phillip and instead catching a shot of some yellow and orange balloons beginning to smoke up, black rain pouring from the sky, and seeing that dreadful Possum puppet everywhere he goes. Possum is filmed in such a way that it gradually reveals more and more of the horrifying Possum puppet to the audience, representing Philip’s reawakening demons as well as both the audience and Philip slowly beginning to realize that Uncle Maurice has more to do with his trauma than Philip thinks.

Some shots seem to be glimpses into Philip’s memory, showing places he’s been in before, just empty with no one else in them. The film doesn’t have many human characters in it, making it seem just as lonely as Phillip is. However, that isn’t to say that the film lacks character; Sean Harris (who plays Philip) delivers a haunting performance that keeps a tight grip of your attention through the entirety of Possum’s 85-minute run time. Speaking of acting, Harris’ movements throughout the film are very reminiscent of child-like mannerisms and insecurities. Looking over his shoulder while he runs away nervously, sweaty hands held together in front of him like a toddler would when anxious from potential danger, curling up into the fetal position and crying when feeling threatened and whining like an unwanting baby when confronted. These all contribute to the ever-present truth of poor Phillip’s corrupted innocence, which is fed to the audience generously throughout.

What Does It Mean?

On the topic of symbolism, this film is full, simply bursting with it. If you like shots of random things representing other aspects or themes found in the movie, you’re in luck because this film has TONS of that. Here’s a quick list of all the symbols that I could find on the first viewing:

  • The yellow and orange balloons floating inside a children’s room represent Phillip’s original childhood ignorance, while the black smoke enveloping them represents the death of his parents (from the fire that Uncle Maurice started in Phillip’s house) as well as the corruption or ‘blackening’ of childhood innocence.
  • The nursery rhyme, “Mother, Father, what’s afoot? Only Possum, black as soot” bridges the gap between the purity of his younger years and the hell he now endures every day, walking around trying to live while being haunted by his past, feeling the eyes of his abuser on him at all times.
  • The black rain pouring from the sky, tainting everything it touches with its necro-colored pollution, is a symbol of Phillip feeling that his whole world is being overcome by insanity.
  • The immortal fox which can be beaten until dead and rotten, but somehow always stands back up and walks away, is a symbol of the anguish he feels and his inability to get rid of it.
  • The surrounding area is full of forests with many dead trees and warped branches, symbolizing the spindly, disgusting spider legs of the Possum.
  • While on the topic of spider legs, those in themselves are a symbol for fingers. If you haven’t seen the last 10 minutes of the film, there’s a LOT of fingers involved.
  • And last but not least, the Possum. Phillip’s dead-eyed spider puppet symbolizes multiple things; his fractured or suffering mental state, his abusive uncle Maurice (who we later discover is the man who’s been abducting and molesting many children in the area, who also raped him when he was young), and Philip’s desire to release this trauma from his life. Wherever he goes, no matter how hard he tries to get rid of it, the Possum is always there. Creeping up close behind him, watching him from afar, waking up with it in his bed, menacing him with his long, hairy appendages. There is no escape, you can’t break it or burn it, you can’t leave it all behind, because pain and memories aren’t physical things. The only way to get rid of abuse is to do away with the abuser.

Speculation Abomination

When Uncle Maurice says, “Waking up is it? Wants to get out” he’s referring to Phillip’s growing suspicion that Maurice is actually the one that raped him.

The green candies Maurice offers to Phillip could potentially be drugs that knock him out and allow for Maurice to get up to his dirty deeds. They could also be just regular candies that Maurice used to coerce Phillip into doing gross things or letting Maurice abuse him more.

The nature of the name ‘Possum’ for the puppet could be significant in that it mirrors how Phillip acts. Possums (the animal) are known to be cowardly and play dead when frightened, which is something Phillip does when he’s put into an uncomfortable situation. When he throws the Possum off the bridge, he too acts like a possum, slams into the mud, and curls up in a ball while he experiences horrible flashbacks.

Final Thoughts

This movie is really good and it is worth your time. It makes you feel more uncomfortable and slimy than scared, but the single most terrifying scene of the whole movie is well deserved. I literally threw my laptop when Uncle Maurice jumped out of the shadows. Please support this film, I genuinely recommend it.

Written by: Fabrizio Ramirez

Weekly Watchlist: Week 1

This is Weekly Watchlist. Weekly, (or bi-weekly, depends on how many movies I’ve seen), I will be posting an article detailing the movies I’ve watched during the week.

Why peruse the Weekly Watchlist? Because I’m a film major, *shrugs shoulders* I watch movies almost everyday, and I’ve got some things to say about them. Some are really nice, while others are trash; my job is to help you, the reader, avoid the trash. 

Before we get into anything, I need to give a shoutout to the app Letterboxd. Letterboxd is a free app where you can log the films you’ve watched, rate/review them, and see what your friends think of films. I use this to keep track of everything I watch and this series is loosely based off their online process.

Monday (2.11.19)

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – 3.5/5

  • A fistful of Clinty Beastwood & some pretty nice/old-style cinematography; watched this for a film classics course I’m enrolled in and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for Wild West films and will sit through one no matter how slow it is sometimes.

Tuesday (2.12.19)

The Lobster (2015) – 4.5/5

  • An extremely interesting and unique story created by Greek film director Yorgos Lanthimos; this is his first feature film in all American-English and he does a marvelous job. The plot is so well written and obscure; the acting is well-executed by the great cast. The cinematography was done by frequent collaborator Thimios Bakatakis and was extremely impressive. 4.5/5 stars.

The Social Network (2010) – 4.5/5

  • I’ve wanted to see this for the longest time but unfortunately it’s not on any streaming sites. Fortunately, I found it on 123Movies and was able to watch it with only mildly sh**ty audio. Extremely interesting and amazing acting all around. Makes the world realize how much of an a**hole Mark Zuckerberg is.

Wednesday (2.13.19)

The Snowman (2017) – 1/5

  • Honestly did not expect it to be good in any way. But I also did not expect it to be this bad… Gave it 1 out of 5 stars because it seems that everyone involved genuinely thought they were making something good. Horrific editing, stupid and confusing story, and a rather waste of time. But plenty of memes can come from this

Thursday (2.14.19)

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) – 3/5

  • Not nearly as prolific as the original or the Lego Batman movie but better than the Lego Ninjago movie. Expected more from the pilot LEGO film sequel as it had a star studded cast and an exponential amount of ways the plot could’ve gone. The story was not nearly as great and it didn’t really impress me but I think it deserves a 2nd viewing.

Friday (2.15.19)

The End of the Tour (2015) – 4/5

  • Extremely introspective and offers a deeper analysis through a second viewing (that I probably won’t do). Well made and really interesting; the cinematography actually surprised me as to how well it was shot; the writing was also extremely nice. This movie made me want to actually read the 1,000+ page book that David Foster Wallace actually wrote. Heads up there’s an ending credit scene for some reason.

Saturday (2.16.19)

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015) – 3/5

  • I first learned about this experiment in my high school psychology class; subsequently, this film came out in theatres in the same semester. My teacher recommended it to everyone but it wasn’t until this week that I finally sat down and watched it. The most interesting part is the character development (which is obviously the point of the experiment/film). Through watching, I found that the film did not really depict the horrors that the boys faced to the fullest extent. I read and researched far worse things than what was depicted in the film. Felt a little slow at times but this was full of young promising talent and fairly well done acting.

Sunday (2.17.19)

Pulp Fiction (1994) – 4.5/5

  • Put this on to watch a few iconic scenes but ended up just watching the whole damn thing. I don’t think I really need to go in depth as to how or why this movie is great and a classic that everyone knows. You can probably find 5,000+ word analysis’ of this film somewhere honestly.

Thank you for reading along this week’s Weekly Watchlist; I hope these comments offer insight into your choice of what to watch.

Make sure to check next week to see what I watch.

Written by: Eduardo Orozco