- Review by Kaya Savas - April 16, 2018
Michael Abels continues his brilliant partnership with director Jordan Peele for their sophomore effort together. After the success of Get Out, we have Us. The film revolves around a family who must confront threatening versions of themselves. Abels is a brilliant and accomplished composer, but is relatively new to the world of film composition. Get Out was Abels's first feature film after Peele found footage of him and his music on YouTube. The beauty of coming into film with a rich musical history that was formed outside of film, is that Abels doesn’t conform to formulas and archetypes. The result is a horror score that eases its way into the narrative, slowly attaches itself to you, and then won’t let go.
The score for Us is a breath of fresh air, and showcases how Abels is able to lay down an incredible foundation in the first act so that the score has a great launching pad to execute acts 2 and 3. Overall, the music is simple in its instrumentation, truly echoing the “less is more” mentality. The music never bashes you over the head, but instead resorts to strings for building and sustaining tension. Abels utilizes percussion to bring on the intensity when he needs to, and you feel those visceral hits. The opening track “Anthem” acts almost as a prelude in the same way as he structured Get Out. The vocals do appear later on in the score as well.
A highlight that comes in act 3 during a pivotal scene is the track “Pas De Deux”, which is the amazing adaptation of Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” that was featured in the trailer. The skill here is taking a song featured in act 1, pinpointing the rhythm, boiling it down to its essence, and then turning it on its head to make it a full circle moment in the narrative. Originally they were going to use “Pas De Deux” from The Nutcracker, but after the trailer got such an amazing response, Jordan Peele opted to try this version out. It somehow fits very seamlessly with Abels's original compositions.
As the story concludes, we get a nice resolution from the music. We feel like we haven’t just been kept on edge, but that we traveled with the characters through the music. Many horror movies these days are meant just as quick jump-scare escapism, which are fine for what they are. There’s plenty of fun to be had in movies like The Conjuring or Insidious, and even something so conceptually-based like Paranormal Activity. However, Peele and Abels are more interested in telling a story with characters, rather than just trying to find gimmicky ways to startle you. Jordan Peele’s rich characters allowed Michael Abels to craft another rich horror score. Us stands proudly next to Get Out as an exceptional accomplishment in horror storytelling.