Feeling Seen is a new column focusing on personal reflections on films and featuring a different author every week. For this edition, critics K. Austin Collins and Devika Girish talk through Jordan Peele’s Us and issues of horror, race, class, and more, in a wide-ranging dialogue that starts off with a reflection on criticism itself. (Note: the conversation has been edited and condensed.)

All images from Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)

Devika Girish: So one of your strongest reactions to Us was not to overthink it—a plea to enjoy the film, take it at its face value and try not to read too much into its symbols and allegories. I disagreed with that response a little bit, only because I really enjoy overthinking films, and I enjoy speculating about world-building and Easter eggs. I’ve been going down all those Twitter threads delineating the various motifs in the film. But you brought a larger question to my mind about the desire to read a lot into films, both those with a protagonist of color and those made by a filmmaker of color. I’m wondering if there is a heightened desire to read more into such films and whether that’s an unfair burden for a filmmaker like Jordan Peele.

KAC: Well, it’s interesting that you ask about this in terms of filmmakers of color because part of the premise of not overthinking it is my reaction to the conversation around Donald Glover’s “This Is America” video, which is not a music video that I love, but it’s not even about how I feel about it. On the one hand I thought it was cool to see people take the images he was invoking in that music video and unpack them and give the Norton Critical Edition of that music video. But to me, it didn’t matter how many references there were, the basic point of the video was still overly simple. The complicated thing about the video was the labyrinth of references, the curation—it wasn’t the intellectual idea behind it. You could give me any number of cross-eyed, skewed, rare, obtuse references to blackface, but ultimately you’re making an old argument about our taking pleasure in that kind of violence, etc., etc. You’re not enlivening the argument by displaying your ability to come up with a new system of references.

DG: Right.

KAC: I feel a little differently about Us in that Jordan Peele is going for a more unique idea. The movie is at its smartest when it plays with our expectation of how race does or doesn’t factor in that discourse of have or have-nots. The reason that my instinct was “don’t overthink it” was that as soon as I walked out of the theater, I was surrounded, because Us is the kind of movie that has a press screening at a multiplex in New York with a mix of critics and moviegoers. It’s a really good way to see that movie, because you’re seeing it with a crowd. But as soon as it ends, the first thing everyone is doing is asking “How does this relate to that?” and “What are the references at the beginning of the movie with that VHS tape?” But for me, when I sat down and thought about it, raising more questions was more unsatisfying. I was reading the movie in a wrong way by trying to treat it as a puzzle. Even though it does give that impression, I don’t think that that’s the most satisfying, most successful way that the movie works. I think it works much better, fundamentally, as just a horror movie. It’s a good horror experience. And it’s good that it has ideas, and it should have ideas, but the use of symbols and obscurities to bolster those ideas—that’s when I lose interest. Because I think you can communicate those ideas effectively in other ways. So that’s what I mean by “don’t overthink it.” I don’t know, I don’t like it when my feed becomes like Reddit. [Laughs]

DG: Yeah.

KAC: I don’t like it when the conversation becomes “let’s unpack everything.” Because if you’re raising these questions about class and have-nots, why is so much of the conversation about unpacking those symbols and not about the political idea there? The conversation that we were having wasn’t about class. [Laughs] We were picking up on details like the Howard University sweatshirt. But there’s a whole conversation to be had there about the black middle class. Even if the movie is encouraging you to, don’t reduce it to a puzzle,  because if all it is, is a puzzle, then I don’t think it’s very good or interesting art. That’s how I feel about Westworld: okay, I see where you’re going with this already, I could already tell he was a robot or whatever. Us gives you other things, it’s a smarter, better piece of art. I don’t want to deter people from going down that rabbit hole. I do think that Jordan maybe overdoes the amount of puzzliness, to the point that it distracts from the conversation we’ve been having about what’s at stake in the movie.

DG: It’s interesting that you mention the Childish Gambino “This is America” video. The difference to me is that that video seems very obviously to be aiming to produce that sort of narrative about race and America. With Us, I think you’re right that there are references that have to do with class, the black middle-class, and upward mobility within the context of race. But I also wonder if people are reading some things into it just because the family at the center of this film is black. Maybe in another context, something like a Howard T-shirt would just be a marker giving these characters a full identity, that don’t mean more than “Hey, this character actually has a life,” shorthand for this character’s life and arc. There’s this pressure put on this film, on this filmmaker, on these characters, to be far more than what they are, which is just well-rounded people.

KAC: There are a couple of things here. First of all, Get Out is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of phenomenon, for a movie, and particularly a movie right now that’s not a superhero film to take hold of the public imagination, of language, and the way that we talk about race. “The sunken place” is like a category of racial analysis now. [Laughs] As soon as Kanye fucked up, it’s, “Oh—sunken place.” It’s in the category of things like Uncle Tom, it means something now in terms of your relationship to your race. And it has been a while since a movie gave something like that and contributed to the culture in that way. And obviously it was his first movie and it was a hit, with a crazy amount of success that no movie is going to live up to. So necessarily when we’re talking about Us, we’re also talking about a movie made in the shadow of a movie that changed the culture.

DG: Us is tethered to Get Out, you’re right.

KAC: Yeah, precisely. There’s also the possibility that he is trying to make something that participates in the conversation in the way that Get Out did, and we are all overreading because we’re looking for the same way it can be in the conversation as Get Out was. I agree with you about something like the Howard shirt for example—there’s a difference, too, between a symbol that’s useful, and just a detail that resonates. The Howard sweatshirt is specifically resonant in the context of the father, of Winston’s character, having class envy for his wife’s friends. But the thing that’s so interesting to me about Us is that that archetype—the middle-class family for whom the grass is always greener with their slightly rich friends—is not racially specific. What’s interesting is that we don’t usually have stories about the black middle-class right now going wild in this way. The black middle-class is a Cosby-era sitcom thing, and a couple of Spike Lee movies, but it’s not the basis for movies that become mega-hits in the United States. Even though on TV, in shows like Blackish, you see the black middle-class family. But in this movie, what makes it interesting is: is their class envy also racial envy? I don’t think so. I really do think that they just happen to be a black family, they just happen to have white friends. And what’s important about them having any sort of money at all is that it creates a more dramatic contrast with the Tethered.

But the other thing that we’re overlooking is that everyone dies! The Tethered aren’t just going after middle-class people, they’re not just going after rich people, they’re going after everybody. Everybody above ground is better off than the people who are below ground. So does it matter that they are a middle-class family? Is it necessarily that kind of critique, when the movie also suggests that if they had less money, they would still be getting killed? It’s interesting because Jordan Peele is really playing with our expectation of how we navigate black or middle-class or the combination of the identities in the movie. He sets us up to expect that the movie is going to be about certain things that then, in this case, the movie both is and isn’t about. This isn’t really a movie about black middle-class specifically, or solely. The black family and the white family aren’t really different from everyone else who’s getting killed in that regard. But Peele sets you up to think that it’s going to be that kind of conversation. He’s leaning a bit into, “Yeah, I know I’m the guy that made Get Out, the movie about race, and I know I just made a movie about a black family and it’s a horror movie, and it has these elements of race and class.” The Howard sweatshirt is significant, and they’re a middle-class family with those class anxieties, but it’s not a movie about the situation, the condition, of the black-middle class. I think that his ability to play with that is interesting. Yes, we are prone to want a movie to be about certain things, or want it to have a certain argument about race and class because of who made it. We didn’t ask the same kind of questions about class in Hereditary. And she was an artist.

DG: And you don’t need these things as a marker of anything bigger in that setting. The mise-en-scène in Hereditary is just the mise-en-scène—that’s just where these people live.

KAC: Right, it’s a haunted house, so of course it’s big. Big and spooky.

DG: Yeah, and I think that what people are grappling with in interpreting Us is accepting this family as vehicle of a story that has universal implications. Race immediately feels specific, and to reconcile that with universality in this film is difficult for viewers. But it is also significant that the family are the survivors. I don’t know how many people are still alive at the end of the movie, how far this plague has spread, but as far as we can see, this is the family that’s made it. Maybe there is a simpler narrative explanation for that—I mean, Adelaide clearly knows better than others how to fight these people because, as we find out towards the end, she was one of them. But I guess it is also significant in the context of the horror movie trope of killing off black characters first. Is there something more to be read in their surviving this attack by an underclass that emerges to replace the… “above class”? I don’t know what the word would be here.

KAC: Yeah, I struggled to find the word. I just call them “above-ground.” I wish they had some sort of name—you know, in the Harry Potter universe, there’s the Muggles. Just give me a word for everything. [Laughs] It’s a really intriguing aspect because the survival of the family wasn’t on my mind at all before I saw the movie. It’s funny, I was sitting in the theater and as soon as the movie started, before even the scary part of that whole opening at the beach, I thought, “I feel like Lupita and Winston and the children are not going to die in this movie.” I just had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be how it played out.

DG: I wasn’t so sure about Winston, I’ll tell you that.

Austin Collins: If it’s anyone, it was going to be him.

DG: Yeah.

KAC: It’s complicated, right? Our idea of Lupita—I just knew that Peele wasn’t going to kill off the black matriarch. And I didn’t see him killing off either of the black kids. Even though I didn’t see him saying anything anywhere like “I don’t want to film that kind of violence towards black people.” But it just instinctively felt like something that he would not do. Black death on screen changes everything, particularly in the sense of a horror movie. I think it would be harder for him to walk the ideological mystery of this movie, in terms of the extent to which it’s about race. You couldn’t have a question there if he killed them off. That’s what’s smart about having the doubles. It doesn’t feel like a movie where we’re supposed to be talking about images of black death. It just is not that movie. And it’s so interesting that he’s able to do that in a horror movie—while showing black people dying. He’s showing the daughter in the tree, you know she’s going to die, he shows Lupita killing herself, and there’s a real sense of danger. But I think that the genius of this doubling is that he begins to play with the image of black death on screen while still preserving the nucleus of the black family. That to me is more interesting than any symbol per se—it shows that he’s found a way through the problem of representation there: how can you show black death on screen without the movie becoming about black death? I really don’t think that there are many movies that have found a solution to that problem.

DG: Yeah. Also, he’s taking a classic horror premise—the return of the repressed, the schizophrenic mind, that kind of thing—where we don’t usually see black people being the protagonist or the subject.

KAC: Right.

DG: And the doubling and splitting give these characters depth that makes them much more than just objects or elements of the plot. So there is something to be said about not overvaluing the presence of these characters. But at the same time, in the history of horror cinema and in the history of race on screen, I think there are some significant layers introduced by the fact that this narrative set-up is built around a black family.

KAC: Yes, for sure.

DG: In your review you talked about transcending genre, which you attributed to both Get Out and this film. I don’t think it’s new for horror films—or genre films, in general—to have strong social messages, it’s been part of the genre’s DNA for a long time. But what’s very interesting to me about both of Jordan Peele’s films is how they literalize certain things. It’s what you were saying earlier about Get Out and the sunken place. It took on something very current in our vocabulary of social justice, and in our general discourse, which is the idea of cultural appropriation, and I was struck by how it literalized that. Horror and fantasy allows you to do that. Us does the same thing. To me, for instance, one of the film’s most affecting themes was the idea of impostor’s guilt, especially in relation to class. And I’m wondering what work is done when we are responding to the ideas presented on screen in very visceral, bodily ways, whether laughing or screaming. I watched most of the film through my fingers. There’s something about the absolute terror this film wreaked on my body. I was clenched the whole time, and when I came home my neck muscles were hurting because of all the times I quickly turned my head away. My heart rate was up. That kind of embodied feeling combined with this very literal schema of social relations was very powerful for me. Ultimately what I kept returning to is the twist at the end, which I saw coming, but it still left an emotional impact on me. I kept thinking and shuddering at the idea of someone so young being able to comprehend that this person who is just like them has a better life. And then having the drive, the ruthless initiative, to switch places and condemn that person to the reality they came from, and then living with that their whole life. So at the end, I just relived every scene of the movie that had Lupita in it, thinking of her character now as someone who has carried this the whole time and is clearly not a monster. She is someone we grow to really sympathize with. And that was very unsettling for me.

Maybe it’s something personal I brought to it, too. Especially because I’m not American and I came here a few years ago as a student, it resonated with the diasporic aspect of my identity, and this guilt that I think often accompanies the idea of making it here and leaving people behind. And also the knowledge that I haven’t earned my place here—the knowledge of all the things beyond my merit or control that resulted into whatever social place I occupy today. What do you think is the effect or power of imbibing these ideas through body genres? I’ll say “body genres” because I think that there are comedic aspects to the film as well. Was there a particular theme that touched you very strongly?

KAC: First of all, I think that what you’re describing about the end of the film is precisely what I mean by “don’t overthink it”—your reaction was my reaction. You do that work in the moment when you find out that they switch places, and you rethink the entire movie, etc. But I remember talking to someone right after, and he was like, “Now I gotta re-watch it and check all the scenes and see if that holds up.” And I was like, “Yeah… I don’t know if I care if the math checks out.” [Laughs] To me it is about precisely the reaction that you have: that we should be thinking about our sympathy for the choice Adelaide made, about how these desires for the good life manifest themselves in this little girl who sees her double and just instinctively knows there’s a better life out there. And then, as you described, she is living with it, and this is the return of the repressed. The nightmare that she is describing to her husband, which we initially think is the PTSD of a little girl who walks into the funhouse and sees something scary, we have to rethink that as the fear of a person who you took something from and who keeps coming back for it. Knowing where they came from and why they want to take it back is a much more interesting thing to think about than making sure everything else adds up.

And I’m with you on this visceral reaction, and having that be more important than many other things. I think that one of the things that’s becoming part of Jordan Peele’s signature as a filmmaker is that he is really smart about black faces and the range of emotions and things that can verge on caricature that he has played with in both of his films. Whether it’s the way that Lupita performs, the things that she does with her face, or the ways that our experience of the sunken place is so rooted in that expression—Daniel Kaluuya hypnotized and the tears coming down his eyes, or the face that Betty Gabriel makes. For me, the most resonant thing about the film was the panic that Lupita communicates to us that we only retrospectively realize is panic that the other girl is coming back. It isn’t as simple as “I’m just worried that that girl is coming back to switch places,” it is much more loaded. You gain a sense of what’s below ground and of a real lower class, of a complete lack of privilege and complete lack of education, and this invisible connection that you have with this person above ground with a greater life. There’s the fear of being returned there, and the fear of the anger that she must have incited in someone by switching places with her.

Thinking about that has really been one of the biggest takeaways—not how attached you are to your privilege, but how we are all just running away from having nothing. The status of the people below ground is the universal nightmare, no one wants to live there. Nobody wants the life they have. And that is the fear that motivates the switch, and that is the fear that she is worrying about, because she knows that she kind of deserves it. That way of thinking about privilege—knowing that you kind of had that coming to you, and the people from below will come for you—is really interesting and resonates right now, in terms of our conversations about class and socialism. I’m not calling it a socialist movie. It’s the sort of thing that’s in the air, a fear of being upturned by a revolutionary force. And this is why class and race and things like that are so important to the horror genre. We play on our instinctive fears, and nobody wants to be Tethered. Nobody wants that! [Laughs] I think that’s the thing that, viscerally, I just really understand. My favorite detail in the entire movie is actually Elisabeth Moss’s tether, when she is looking in the mirror and she’s cutting her face, and it’s not Elisabeth Moss getting work done. This idea is really genius. This idea that the tether is just acting out these gestures of…

DG: Aspiration.

KAC: And it only makes sense in a world which requires some kind of capital—you’re eating, you’re buying things, you’re winning things, you’re going on rollercoasters, you’re getting plastic surgery done, you’re doing all these things. This would only make sense in a world of capital. For her to be absently imitating that gesture, without really having the referent in that moment, that just summed up so much for me.

DG: There’s something so chilling about those gestures, those markers of class and aspiration, when they are stripped of everything else.

KAC: Yes, there really is.

DG: And the futility: those things make no sense in and of themselves, and so those empty, futile gestures are what is aspired for. I was watching this Indian TV show on Amazon that just came out recently, called Made in Heaven, and it’s about a girl from a working-class family who marries into a very rich family, and about all the things she has had to do in order to make it there. One of the episodes shows flashbacks of her going to a grooming academy, where they teach you how to speak, how to walk, how to eat with a fork and a knife, and basically behave like a person who grew up with wealth.

KAC: Right.

DG: How to order, what not to say, how to taste wine. And I kept thinking of Us as well, how Adelaide learns speech, for instance, and how she acquires all these ways of being above-ground, and the kind of extreme loss that necessitates. The ability to self-annihilate that it requires. And of course, as the Elisabeth Moss double demonstrates, these characters have such a rudimentary understanding of these codes that instead of properly imbibing them, they can only mimic them.

KAC: Totally. To your point, Red, in her whole speech at the end, says that when she’s below ground and becomes Tethered, it’s  during the dance performance that they all realize that there’s something different about her. They realize that only because she’s been above ground and actually taken dance classes. She’s not good at it below ground because of the psychic Tethered relationship, she’s good at it because she had access. The self-annihilation you’re talking about is so interesting because she has to do that with her language, but she clearly doesn’t do that with her body or with her mind. And that’s why she becomes the leader of this underground thing, which is so much more interesting to think about.

I think that the movie runs into problems because it reveals information sometimes by dumping it in a way that makes you have other questions that just aren’t answerable by the movie. I had a debate with someone about how the below-ground people all get their scissors and red suits. I think if the movie had done more to not explain things, I think we would have been more likely to just accept, “They all get scissors,” because, who cares? Once Adelaide lays out her whole plan and tells us everything, then I start asking those questions: “Where did she get her sandals from?” [Laughs] “What are these prison uniforms, what is with this world?” I think that you have to feel the movie—the visceral reaction you were talking about—and I think that is so much more important than intellectually understanding the movie. It’s a horror movie and the way it communicates so much of what it is about, is through the visceral, through fear.

DG: And through desire too. I think what’s more important than understanding how she orchestrated everything is just understanding her desire to do this.

KAC: Right. It’s about the desire, and it’s about accepting the premise of there being these two worlds, and I felt that the movie ran into trouble because it had calibrated how to get us to ask enough questions, but not to not ask the questions that weren’t important. The more that it’s driven home to me that “You guys are below the ground and you have nothing,” the more I’m like, “So what’s with the bunnies? Who’s cleaning up the bunny shit?” That’s a question one of my friends asked, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since. Why isn’t Lupita worried about stepping into bunny shit? I don’t know, good question!

DG: Oh my god.

KAC: Yeah, don’t think about it.

DG: And who’s ironing the red jumpsuits? I don’t know why that really got my attention: how they were perfectly ironed and folded by these people who have stunted movements and live a very crude life.

KAC: There is a moment in the montage at the end, when Red is explaining how all of these things happened, when you see them suiting up and getting their scissors. And I was talking to someone who was like, “So did she go around and get everyone’s sizes first?” It’s true—don’t go down these avenues of practicality, even though I think the movie doesn’t know how to not encourage that. You can’t figure it out. It’s about desire, it’s about understanding these class instincts, and just wanting a life. For the Tethered to want to be above ground is such a basic desire that we should all be able to understand it.

DG: You mentioned earlier how timely the movie and its images and themes feel right now. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Hands Across America campaign. Red saw it when she was really young, and so that is her arrested idea of what politics or political action is, because that’s what was most legible to her as a child: what was on TV. And there’s an irony to that being the Tethered people’s plan, because they’re literally killing everyone in the world—and then they’re staging this movement that is entirely based on visibility.

KAC: Right.

DG: Right? That was a kind of boondoggle because Hands Across America was meant purely as a statement. But what does a statement even mean when the people you’re sticking it to, you’ve already killed them? Something about that does feel very resonant today, not just to today’s politics but to social media and how activism plays out in these terrains of media and visibility.

KAC: I really agree with you. I don’t know if I would call the movie satirical, but I do think that it is a satirical thing for that to be the image of political action that she has, because as you point out, it was ineffectual, right? It didn’t do anything. And what’s particularly hilarious is that it’s also very ’80s—this huge political symbol that we’re all going to be involved in, and it’s probably going to involve celebrities. All of us holding hands across the country, I don’t think we would do that today. This has to be the Live Aid, We Are the World kind of era of political action. But for it to be ineffectual is so interesting, because by killing everyone, the Tethered have already done more than that image of holding hands. I really wondered about that, because I think that Hands Across America is not just part of ’80s nostalgia. I think he could be saying something about the current moment, that it’s already a different kind of conversation than one in which we are talking about ineffectual political activism. Ineffectual political activism was the real Hands Across America, the thing that she saw the photo of. In terms of political action, you can’t get more drastic than killing off the upper class.

DG: Right! Literally replacing the upper class.

KAC: It’s the most radical thing you can do.

DG: And media campaigns are thought of as a means to achieve that, in whatever tenuous way, and here, that’s reversed. This replacement killing campaign becomes a step towards the culmination of the campaign, which is a statement. I’m not quite sure what that exactly signifies for me.

KAC: I mean, it is crowdsourcing of a form: let’s all get together to do this thing, as a united, collective act. I think it’s the kind of instinct that we are currently repeating, so what’s so ’80s about it is that it manifests in that specific way. It was just a bad era for taste. [Laughs]

DG: It’s just corny.

KAC: Yeah. I will say that there is something about that last shot where we saw all of them in a row in orange, going off into the hills. By that time we have such a clear association with those orange jumpsuits and who’s wearing them and what they are, and that is a more powerful image than Hands Across America. They’re united after killing everyone, and this uniform does feel more violent, more powerful, more totalizing, somehow, the way that they accomplish it here. The mission was to kill everyone off and line up that way, a streak of orange going off into the hill and signifying a number of people that they killed, signifying the havoc that they’ve wreaked. It’s a more pointed symbol than Hands Across America, which is really not about anything.

DG: I also wonder if, going back to what we were saying about the Tethered aspiring to a world of capital, this sort of activism is an activism of capital, this liberal upper-class activism of image-making. I was thinking that in some ways the Tethered don’t understand the significance of what they’ve already done. Because, lead by Red, they believe that that’s how people above ground protest, that this is the sort of elevated, upper-class way of taking political action. And they don’t entirely recognize that it’s futile, in the same way that digging a knife through a cheekbone is not plastic surgery. I might be overthinking it here…

KAC: It’s funny to me that it can go either way. It could be acting out this political gesture, but it could also be a firm counterpoint to something like Hands Across America saying, “When you guys were doing this in the name of the underclass, it didn’t do anything. When the underclass does it on their own terms, for themselves, it’s different.” I almost wish that instead of just that info coming at the end, that throughout, somehow, Red’s character was more nakedly socialist, and not just nakedly political, so that we could ascribe the intention to the end by saying that in order for Hands Across America to be significant, this is what has to happen. There has to be an overturning of class. It would have been a different kind of movie, an angry movie, and it would have made people angrier if it really was pro-Red. [Laughs] Her name is Red, right, and she has these radical socialist gestures that I don’t think the movie quite endorses. It would be interesting to think about what would it be like if it did.

DG: There’s not that much pathos to what Red says in the end, despite the chilling implications of being from the above-world and then being locked into the underground and so having an awareness of difference. The movie does make her a bit of a monster, and we sympathize much more with Adelaide. Maybe that depends on what we bring to it as viewers. But I thought there was a lack of pathos in what she was saying, partly because of how much exposition she had to deliver towards the end. I got a bit distracted from the psychological weight of the horror that she carried.

KAC: Me too. I think that the way that she is written has a very clear parallel to Killmonger and T’Challa in Black Panther, in that it becomes about haves and have-nots. About the sort of life that you were able to have but I couldn’t have, and now I’m taking all the power that I’ve gained and all the things that I’ve learned, to defeat you, to take it back. But in Black Panther, when Killmonger dies, although he is a monster, it is much more poignant. There is a real sadness in it, and when we think that Red has died, it’s an inversion really, we are not sympathetic. But when we realize that Red is Adelaide, we are? Which is really weird, right?

DG: I think that we’re also scared. For me, I was so scared throughout the movie that the relief when Red died overrode any possible idea of sympathizing with her, because I was just terrified by her all throughout. There is a way in which Jordan Peele is flexing his mastery of these horror tropes and ideas, and sometimes that overwhelms these other themes that are a little less developed in the film.

KAC: Yeah, I think that the ambition of it is really interesting. I don’t think that he’s perfected it in this movie. Get Out perfectly manifests itself in its form, details the world very well, and has a concept that really works. The action of the movie speaks to its context, and it’s really both fun and moving in an active way. And I don’t think that the action of Us and the things that happen, the symbols that accrue throughout the course of the movie, work as neatly. But I really admire that he’s gone a bit harder—it’s a much more difficult concept, and there’s so much more going on in this movie.

DG: And the scale is much bigger in every way.

KAC: It’s a lot to deal with, to communicate with the audience while being entertaining and having Get Out as your first movie hanging over people’s heads. It’s really a lot.

DG: Yeah, and we wouldn’t necessarily be speaking of these films in the same breath if they were not both made by him. They’re such different films. This film, despite all of its references, feels so very original to me. I am excited to see what he makes next, and I’m definitely tuning into The Twilight Zone.

KAC: I’m curious about what he does, no matter what it is.

Devika Girish is a freelance film critic. She grew up in India and currently lives in Los Angeles.

K. Austin Collins is film critic at Vanity Fair, and has written for The Ringer, Slate, and elsewhere.