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'Us': It Takes Two to Terrorize

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
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Point of disclosure: Save for classics like "Dracula" (1931) and "Frankenstein" (1931), I'm a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror films. I'm not simply afraid of them, but rather, in the parlance of childhood, "a-scared'"of them. That is, until now. Gripping my armrests in anticipation of a body-elevating jolt whilst viewing film auteur Jordan Peale's "Us," his unconnected followup to the highly praised "Get Out" (2017), the epiphany dawned on me.
 
Having lived through the last two years of the real-life horror that has masqueraded as American politics, I am immunized. Any fiction purporting to be horror pales in comparison to what the genuine article bodes.
 
I'd have just as soon sailed along on the River Styx of frightening movie entrees, cowering in the dark with each film I opted to review. But I am now from innocence tossed, legitimately terrified. You may be familiar with the hackneyed but all the same ominous scene I've been relegated to play out these recent months. I see the monster, but despite all my frantic screaming about his treacherous presence, most of the burghers in the village pay no attention; some of them even trying to censure my exhortations: "He's blinkin' blimey crazy, he is."
 
So, while I sat there in anticipation of involuntary launch, I appreciated the finely skilled dabs and streaks of the cinematic art with which Peale is so obviously gifted. But I saw the fiction for what it ultimately was: a baby rattle that might temporarily distract me from my discomfort.
 
All of which suggested that the only thing left for me to do was to turn my attention to the multifarious metaphors Peale was actually crafting, as opposed to the ones I concocted.
 
In short, there is much to munch on here if the basic fact of doppelgangers terrorizing the Wilson family as they attempt to enjoy their summer vacation isn't entertainment enough for you. For starters, you'll want to figure out from whence these Bizarro-type doubles emanated and, as the Wilsons oft plead in high-pitched fright, what exactly do they want?
 
Although the catastasis and wrap-up kind of explain it, I found said recap even more confounding and, worried that I might do myself harm, have finally stopped scratching my head over the matter. Besides, the wise path here is probably to just take the surface cataclysms as the chaff, the action to keep our hearts palpitating, while the headier, philosophical propounding is for us to theorize après theatre at the local diner with the Glucksterns. It's their turn to pay. You offer to leave the tip.
 
Interestingly, and perhaps a slight sign of social improvement in the American landscape, Peale never calls conscious attention to the fact that the Wilsons, Adelaide and Gabe, and their children, Zora and Jason, are African American. Rather, they are, apparent from their trappings, simply upper middle class. The one exception, which also informs that Gabe has been to college, is the Howard University sweat shirt he wears throughout the harrowing proceedings. However, while those of an analytical bent may read more or less into it than Peale himself intended, the symbolism of the plot's two entities, one fulfilled, the other deprived, lends itself handily to a cornucopia of sociological conjecture.
 
That said, whether frightened or not by the often gruesome goings-on as the duplicates invade the Wilsons' summer manse, we are soon put in the uncomfortable, bloodthirsty position of rooting for our previously happy family to kill the interlopers by any means possible. All thoughts of political correctness go flying out the window when it comes to movie demons.
 
You're free to hate, hate, hate as much as your blood pressure will allow. But of course, muddled as the message may be, the parable at play here suggests that guilt for being a Have in a world teeming with Have-Nots is in order. Whether you can do something about it aside from being a human sacrifice is another matter. The visitants' steady, petrifying encroachment, oblivious to all beseeching, seems hell-bent on revenge and not remediation.
 
Making all this illusoriness as real as your suspension of disbelief deems acceptable, Lupita Nyong'o earns a gold star as both Adelaide Wilson and Red, while Winston Duke as Gabe Wilson and Abraham is also commendable in his double-duty stint. And, doing their fair share of representing the typical American family and its evil alter ego, both Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex are aces as the kids.
 
Granted, the "scare me, scare me" crowd may be disappointed by the dearth of old-fashioned, unremitting shocks to body and soul. But if one gives serious thought to this feature-length affirmation of cartoon pundit Walt Kelly's theorem that we have met the enemy and he is "Us," it's probably the scariest prospect of all.
 
"Us," rated R, is a Universal Pictures release directed by Jordan Peale and stars Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke and Shahadi Wright Joseph. Running time: 116 minutes

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North Adams Happenings: July 24-30

North Adams Happenings July 24 - 30, 2019

SAVE THE DATE
AUGUST 6th - National Night Out
4:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M.Neighborhoods throughout North Berkshire once again join the North Adams Police, Fire, and Emergency Departments to host a variety of special events such as cookouts, games, contests, music and more!
More information.

AUGUST 14th - 23rd Annual Downtown Celebration
JOIN US! The  23rd Annual Downtown Celebration will take over downtown North Adams on Wednesday, August 14 from 5:30 – 9 PM.  
RAIN DATE: Thursday, August 15th
BUSINESSES AND VENDORS: Application still available.
More information.
Wednesday 7/24
10:00 A.M. (FREE, $5 to park), NATURE WALK, Nice 'N' Easy Walk Natural Bridge State Park, McCauley Road More information.  

10:00 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Terrific Tots Playgroup The Family Center, 210 State Street, (413) 664-4821 More information.  

10:30 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Preschool Story Time North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.   


6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. Keene Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

6:30 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, Concerts at the Lake Presents The Matchstick Architects and Bang on a Can Windsor Lake, 200 Windsor Lake Road, (413) 664-6180 More information.

8:00 P.M. (FREE), GAMES, Trivia Night! Ramunto's, 67 Main Street, (413) 398-5152 More information.

Thursday 7/25
5:00 P.M. (FREE), ART, 2019 DownStreet Art Main Street More information.

5:30 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, The Chalet: Apocalypstick Redd The Chalet at Courtyard D, MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way  More information.

6:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Party in the Park Presents The Hotshot Hillbillies Noel Field, 310 State Street   More information.
Friday 7/26
7:30 A.M. (FREE), MEET UP, NAMAzing Eagle Street Parklet Coffee Date NAMAzing Eagle Street Parklet, Eagle Street, thenamazinginitiative@gmail.com More information.

10:00 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Drop-In Playgroup The Family Center, 210 State Street, (413) 664-4821 More information.

11:00 A.M. (FREE, PARKING $5), KIDS, Kidleidoscope New England's Natural Bridge, 1 McCauley Road More information.

6:00 P.M. ($1 and up), GAMES, BINGO! North Adams Elks 487 Lodge, 100 Eagle Street, (413) 664-9039 More information.

6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. Upper Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

7:00 P.M. (BY DONATION), CRAFTING, Knitting Nights with Common Folk Common Folk, 73 Main Street More Information.

8:00 P.M. ($66-300), CONCERT, The Prentenders MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.

8:30 P.M. (FREE), MOVIE, Movies Under the Stars at Colegrove Park Colegrove Park Elementary, 24 Church Street More information.

9:00 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, Karaoke Friday! State Street Tavern, 167 State Street, (413) 664-9152 More information.
Saturday 7/27
9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. (FREE), MARKET,  North Adams Farmers Market St. Anthony's Parking Lot at Marshall Street and St. Anthony's Drive (413)664-6180 More information.

12:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Peace & Rhythm InStore Belltower records, Norad Mill, Suite 301, 60 Roberts Dr More information.

2:00 P.M. ($25), ART, Artist Talk with Chrissie Hynde MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.

4:00 P.M. (FREE), ART, Open Studios at MASS MoCA Assets for Artists, 1320 Mass Moca Way More information.

6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. New Bedford Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

8:00 P.M. ($18-44), CONCERT, Adia Victoria MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.
Sunday 7/28
12:00 P.M. (FREE), PICNIC, Annual Summer Picnic Horrigan Road, Clarksburg More information.

3:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Public Puberty/Carbus/Human Pontiac Belltower records, Norad Mill, Suite 301, 60 Roberts Dr More information.

4:00 P.M. (FREE), FOOD & MUSIC, Racks and Stacks (barbecue and vinyl music) A-oK Berkshire Barbecue, 2601 Mass MoCA Way More information.
 
Monday 7/29
1:00 P.M. (FREE), KIDS, Crafternoons! North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.

6:00 P.M. (FREE), KIDS, Discovery Mondays- Space Themed North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.
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