Jordan Peele’s anticipated second film Us clocked $70.3 million for its opening weekend, according to TIME. This makes it the biggest opening weekend for an original horror movie (following only to recent remakes of It and Halloween).
Us eclipsed Captain Marvel for the number one spot at the box office. With so many blockbuster indications that Hollywood is running on franchise fumes, a young, independent, Black director enjoying such success says volumes about what the public wants.
It’s also the “biggest opening weekend ever for a movie starring a woman of color” and the “biggest single-day gross ever for a live-action original movie,” according to Forbes. They also note that it stars black actors who are darker skinned than usual for a mainstream Hollywood hit, a win against colorism within black representation. The tides really are turning.
Peele Continues a Tradition of Horror as Social Critique
Critics on Rotten Tomatoes are divided only on whether or not Us surpasses its groundbreaking predecessor Get Out, which debuted to $33.4 million domestic on its opening weekend, and landed an Oscar for best original screenplay.
The major criticism, usually couched in otherwise glowing reviews, is that the social commentary isn’t as clear as it was in Get Out. That’s a pretty good problem to have, suggesting Peele has dodged the typical directorial sophomore slump.
Writing for Uptown, Ronda Racha Penrice announces “Peele’s Hollywood Horror Takeover is Official”. She says while his second film “lacks Get Out‘s cohesive vision, it does add an undeniable freshness and innovation to the genre.”
Horror has a storied tradition of sensationalism and second-tier exploitation that has at times pit critics against it. To die hard genre fans, some of the best offerings come from these campy dregs. As such, horror isn’t always associated with artistry. But Peele joins the ranks of auteurs like Argento and Hitchcock (the latter to whom he’s becoming routinely compared) who’ve propagated the horror genre with artistry, intelligence and finesse. And he continues an established tradition of horror as social commentary, in league with the late George Romero, who arguably invented the zombie subgenre with his playful critique of peak consumerism.
‘Transcendent’ Lupita Nyong’o is Stealing the Show
Lead actor Lupita Nyong’o is already stirring accolades with her “transcendent… jaw-dropping performance” as a mother defending her family from a disturbing pack of doppelgangers. Nyong’o previously starred in Black Panther and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and she won an Oscar for her supporting performance in 12 Years a Slave.
It might be too soon to wonder if she’ll be up for an lead actress Oscar this time around, but one wonders. To date, Halle Berry is the only black woman who has won best actress (for 2001’s Monster’s Ball).
Black Excellence in Storytelling Continues, as the Non-Black World Takes Notice
The Root reminds us that Black excellence in storytelling is nothing new. What’s new is nonblack audiences waking up to it. “With Us, Peele has essentially cemented himself into the pop culture zeitgeist once again, much like he did with Get Out. It may be a surprise to them,” writes Tonja Renée Stidhum, “but it’s not a surprise to us.”