Us (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Us (2019)

Film: Looking back it was obvious that Jordan Peele, during his days as part of the comedy team Key And Peele, had a sense of humour that learnt more towards the horrible. A lot of the humour that he and Keegan-Michael Key did together had horror themes, from Racist Zombies to parodies of Saw, but even in their more straightforward comedy there were darker elements (they did one who two friends were moving house and one introduced the other to dub-step, with bloody results)… seriously, if you haven’t watched Key And Peele, you need to change that immediately.

This film is Peele’s second horror movie effort, the first being the well-received and successful Get Out, which he both wrote and directed, and just like Get Out, Peele has filled the film with a bunch of subtle, and not-so-subtle, nods to horror that he loves, like CHUD, Friday the 13th, The Lost Boys, Hitchcock’s films (whose style he occasionally emulates to great effect) and many others.

Us starts with a family outing in the 80s which sees the young Adelaide (Madison Curry) go missing from her parents for about 15 minutes whilst visiting the Santa Cruz fun pier… but what happens whilst she went missing remains a mystery as she refuses to talk about it.

We flash forward to now and are re-introduced to Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), who is happily married to Gabe (Winston Duke) and have two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) and about to enjoy a beachside holiday not far away from where she was abducted all those years ago.

The family visit the beach so they can catch up with their friends, the Tylers; Josh (Tim Heidecker), his wife Kitty (Elizabeth Moss) and their children, Becca and Lindsey (Cali and Noelle Sheldon), but Adelaide being at the place where she went missing as a child, she is on edge the whole time.

Much later into the night, back at home, they find a family standing in their driveway just looking at the house. When Gabe challenges them, they attack the house, and our family discovers that these intruders are doppelgängers, or shadows, of them.

These doppelgängers are part of a much greater conspiracy though, and the truth, once unleashed, is scarier than what this small family unit is encountering…

Peele has created a fascinating story that can only exist within the confines of its universe as to question its logic perhaps makes it fall apart. To approach this film as just a ‘home invasion’ story is a mistake as there is so much more and the conspiracy elements of the tale are far more interesting in their mystery.

The performances that Peele gets from his cast are nothing short of spectacular. All the actors’ character and appearance are SO different between the two roles that it’s as if different actors are playing them. I’ve watched a lot of films that have doppelgängers as a theme, from The Sixth Day to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a personality shift from the original to the copy. Nyong’o is especially fearful from one character to the other. Especially seeing as how her double is like some kind of insane messiah with a speech pattern straight out of a nightmare.

Peele has namechecked Hitchcock as an influence and it’s quite clear by both the way he sets a scene, and with some of the violence being just out of eyeshot, so no dwelling on blood or gore here. That’s not to say the film isn’t violent though, it is! Not just physical but also from a psychological point of view as well.

I am sure that Us is full of hundreds of allegories that an uneducated dunce like me doesn’t pick up upon, and maybe there is some political agenda disguised in its frames, but don’t care about that. What I came here to do was enjoy horror movies and with this film, mission accomplished.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian multi-region Bluray which is presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: A really nice bunch on this disc:

The Monsters Within Us is a look at the performances of the actors in both roles they play, and the variation on the same character that they brought to it.

Tethered Together: Making Us Twice looks at the filming of the same scene twice with the originals and the doubles, and the visual effects used to stitch them together.

Redefining a Genre: Jordan Peelers Brand of Horror looks at what Jordan Peele brings to genre films, and his approach to making these films.

The Duality of Us sees Peele discuss some of the symbols used within the film to tell the story.

Becoming Red is a little bit of ‘between take’ footage on Nyong’o who maintained her doppelgänger persona on set during the filming of all these scenes, even when question the director about things happening within the scene. Honestly, this extra was almost as scary as the film: as beautiful as I find Nyong’o, if I’m ever confronted by her doing this schtick, I’ll run in the other direction at full speed.

Scene Explorations breaks down three scenes into their bare bones and dissects their messages.

Deleted Scenes and for me it’s the usual story: there’s a reason why some scenes are excused from a film and it’s usually for the better.

We’re All Dying is kinda-sorta a gag real but it’s a freestyle conversation between Duke and Heidecker that’s occasionally funny.

As Above, So Below: Grand Pas De Deux shows the full performance of the ballet by both versions of young Adelaide, cleverly a dance made for two that the character chooses to dance by herself whilst her tethered version does it somewhere else. Another example of Peele’s symbolism.

Score: *****

WISIA: There is so much more to this film that I’m sure I need to watch it again.

The House of Clocks (1989)

One from the re watch pile…
The House of Clocks aka La Casa Nel Tempo(1989)

The House of Clocks DVD cover


Film: When talking about my favourite films, one director’s name pops up with three example: Lucio Fulci. The films of his that always get a mention are The Beyond (a favourite), The City of the Living Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters. I grew up hiring these films from my local video shop, and pouring over any information I could glean from the pages of Fangoria, though those pages regularly show gore not necessarily present in the copies that I was hiring!

The House of Clocks: home invasion!


I have always dug Fulci’s explicit gore, even though for me it’s not a necessity, and cool set pieces, though sometimes… ok, a lot of the time, the message of the story, or in fact, the story of the story, doesnt feel like a completed entity. 

The House of Clocks is one of those films. This film is a part of the ‘doomed houses’ series of TV films made by Fulci and Umberto Lenzi (the others being The Sweet House of Horror, The House of Witchcraft and The House of Lost Souls), though Fulci’s entry was deemed to gory for TV and instead received a cinema and VHS release.

The House of Clocks: right in the fanny!


Three thieves decide to rob and old clock-collecting couple who go to drastic measures to keep a secret they have hidden from the outside world. Unfortunately, the robbery goes horribly wrong, and the old couple and their groundskeeper are killed during the course of the botched home invasion… but then, all the accumulated clocks starts running backwards, and the dead, live again!

For me, Fulci took his surrealism too far in this flick and it becomes a series of nonsensical set pieces that whilst you understand what is going on, it’s just not conveyed very well. I am sure this could be remade and could tell the story with far more cohesively than what Fulci has done here.

Score: **

The House of Clocks menu screen


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the 2002 Shriek Show release, region 1 DVD which runs for approximately 83 minutes. It’s is presented in an extraordinarily foggy, washed out and dull 1.85:1 image with an English dubbed Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track which is far better than what the image would suggest.

Score: **

Extras: There is a couple of extras on this disc.

First we have trailers for The House of Clocks, Eaten Alive, Zombi 3, House on the Edge of the Park and Sweet House of Horrors. 

Next are two interviews, one with Paolo Paoloni and another with Carla Cassola. Unfortunately the sound with Paoloni is a bit dodgy, but they both seem to have nice recollections of the making of the film .

Score: **

WISIA: It’s not Fulci’s best film by a long shot, and I watched it once several years ago but not since. The only reason I rewatched it at all was for this review. I probably won’t watch it again unless I decide to do some kind of Fulci retrospective.

The House of Clocks: the cat’s revenge.

Inside aka À L’Interieur (2007) Review

Merry Christmas from the To Watch Pile! For the silly season, here’s a special Christmas movie as a gift, sourced from the re watch pile…

Inside aka À L’Interieur (2007)

The cover to the US DVD of Inside


Film: ‘Taste’ is a funny thing. There are things in life that one feels that they should love but for some reason, don’t. I love chocolate, and I love chilli, but chilli chocolate I just can’t do.

In the realm of TV, everyone who watched Game of Thrones told me I would love it due to it containing elements of other things I love: a fantasy medieval period, violence, blood ‘n’ guts, dragons and boobs, but to date I haven’t been able to get past the second episode. Yes, I am aware that by the sixth episode I’ll be hooked, but I’m sorry, if someone told me that a film gets good ‘at the sixth hour’, I probably wouldn’t waste my time with it. Sure it’s acted beautifully but I just don’t get the obsession over it.

Now a few years ago, French cinema made a few films that took the world by store, and me along with it. The filmic cheat of ‘Haute Tension’, the mind blowing ‘Martyrs’ and the nuevo-Nazploitation of Frontier(s) all kicked me in the balls, but there were two films that everyone on the planet rubbed their rhubarbs over that just didn’t click with me: ‘Ils’ aka ‘Them’ and this film ‘Inside’ aka ‘Á L’interieur’.

Inside: Allysson Paradis as Sarah


Inside tells of a pregnant woman, Sarah (Allysson Paradis) whose husband dies in a car accident, and several months later, on Christmas Eve, and the night before she is to go into hospital to have the baby, a stranger (Béatrice Dalle) knocks at her door wishing to come in and use the phone as her car has broken down. Sarah, feeling vulnerable, tells her that she can’t let her in as her husband is sleeping.

To which she tells her that she knows her husband is dead.

The next several harrowing hours (in film time, not actual time) are spent with this strange woman trying, and succeeding in gaining access to the house, but what does she was from the inside the ‘house’ and what are her motives for trying to get ‘inside’…

Inside: Béatrice Dalle as the intruder


My main issue with this film is the protagonist. I am certainly one with whom a movie does not sit well if the final girl or guy is unpleasant, and this is so very true here. Sarah is such an unpleasant human being that I don’t care about her, in actual fact on several occasions I was praying that Dalle would just execute her and be done with it. 

I get that the French films of this period were trying to show a more ‘real’ and gritty cinema at the time this was made, and honestly, home invasion films scare me more than any other kind, but this just did not strike the right chord with me.

Don’t get me wrong, the violence and gore of this film is tiptop and shocking, and, if you’ll excuse the pun, executed brilliantly, and I winced more than once. If Chas. Balun were still alive (we miss you, Chas.) I am sure this film would have rated quite highly in the ‘gore’ section of his ‘Gore Score’, but without that sympathetic lead, I just don’t care.

Also, it’s made really well too and there is a real feeling if claustrophobia to the whole film, and I’ll even give credit to the idea of a pregnant woman being terrorised should have worked and the whole script is pretty good, though their are a few police procedures that even the cops from The Last House on the Left and Human Centipede would raise an eyebrow at.

So yes, I don’t think it’s a total abortion but not being able sympathise with the main character makes it difficult for me to like. For me, if I want to watch a home invasion film set at Christmas, I’ll probably watch Home Alone again instead of this.

Score: **

The menu screen to the US DVD of Inside


Format: This region 1, American release DVD runs for approximately 82 minutes and is presented in a nice 1.78:1 video with a great pair of audio tracks, one in English 5.1 and one in French 5.1, both which are top shelf. There are, of course, subtitles available.

Score: ****

Extras: The disc opens with several trailers: Diary of the Dead, Storm Warning and The Mist, and the extras menu has one for Inside as well.

The core part of this extra package though is a pretty amazing, almost one hour long making of the film. It isn’t divided into 10 mini-featurettes like most of these things are: it’s a solid look at the making of a film. I will warn that it is in French, so you can’t put it on and do something else… you know, like write a review for a blog.

Score: ***

WISIA: I’m not a fan, so probably not.

Béatrice Dalle showing why scissors are so dangerous.