Jordan Peele, Oscar-award winner for Best Screenplay of Get Out in 2017, is the director of the newest horror film Us that creates a psychologically thrilling end of the world scenario where tethers, the doppelgängers who mimic or shadow everything their human does, take over after years spent underground and unknown. See, I absolutely despise horror trailers and shut my laptop nearly every time one pops up on my screen. I somehow got myself to watch the Us trailer, and 10 replays later (mainly due to my appreciation for the fantastic trailer remix of “I Got 5 On It”), the release date became the most anticipated event on my calendar.
The film stars a family of four: parents Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), eldest daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and younger son Jason (Evan Alex). The family is sarcastic and, dare I say, very realistically reflective of the social culture people of color have. Gabe’s unexpected dad humor reflected the comic relief that was seen in Peele’s prior release Get Out, merely keeping the movie well balanced with sarcasm and understatements of terrorizing events. Gabe’s protective shield around his family is full of jokes to lighten the horror of the situation. The family’s underwhelmed attitude towards horrific situations (being hunted down to be murdered by your clone) really brought out personality in the horror. Both child actors did an incredibly professional job in basically playing two roles that were of completely different dynamics.
The opening scene is of toddler Adelaide celebrating her birthday with her parents at the carnival. She wanders off into a mirror maze room titled “Find Yourself” and, soon enough, the lights go out and she finds what’s supposed to be her reflection to be an exact copy of herself standing right across from her. I’m going to jump right to the spoiler: Adelaide’s copy chokes out real Adelaide, drags her to the underground world that every human’s scientifically engineered copy lives in, chains her to the bed and heads into the real world. So, the Adelaide we all see is indeed the scientifically engineered replica, but we don’t find that out until the very end, which leaves a big plot hole: Why was Adelaide freaking out about her doppelgänger finding her if she is the doppelgänger?
A popular theory (in which I support) proposes that because real Adelaide, now known as Red, dominates the soul that is shared between herself and her shadow, Fake Adelaide fears her return to Earth and must hide her real identity as a tether from her loved ones. Fake Adelaide represses the fact that she is indeed tethered so she believes she’s Real Adelaide until she returns to the beach with the mirror maze. Red, being human, possesses intelligence, posing a threat to fake, Earth-roaming Adelaide who plausibly fears that her lookalike will organize some mass revolution with the rest of the tethers from the underground lab to claim her place back on Earth. But, before the tethered family appears for the first time, Adelaide is shakily telling Gabe the childhood story from the perspective of being the victim, when in all reality, she was the attacker. Thus, Adelaide was in fear of her secret getting out because her family and friends know nothing about the childhood switch and broadly, nothing about the underground army of clones that exists.
Throughout the film, not only are plot holes created, but unexplained references are never resolved. In the opening scene that lists the main credits, the shot slowly pans out from one caged rabbit to a wall of caged rabbits, and we later learn that these are what the tethers were forced to eat, but it is never understood why it was important enough to get four consecutive minutes of screen time. This leaves the internet theorizing the meaning behind the rabbits, which I guess sparks a healthy debate, but also makes me wonder if Peele is the mastermind the world deems him to be.
When the tethered family first stands with hands held on the driveway, Adelaide calls the police, and after hanging up, announces that the police are 14 minutes away. The police never show up, throwing the whole movie out of reality and into chaos. I can’t tell if this was smart to prompt action or dumb to throw in a meaningless line that got people into high hopes that lives would be spared. I guess that’s why it’s a thriller.
In the end, when Red is explaining to Adelaide the planning process to attack the human race, viewers see shots of the clones putting on the iconic red jumpsuit and grabbing a pair of identical scissors. From the views of their underground home, there is nothing even remotely close any of these objects, which leaves me questioning how they obtained thousands of red jumpsuits and scissors. I definitely didn’t spot any sewing machines lying around, so my assumption now is that they magically fell through the heavens and into the arms of murder-minded doppelgangers.
In much of his screen time, Jason is seen wearing a plastic mask as a daily accessory, and though later revealed that his doppelganger wears a mask to cover burn marks, it is never truly explained why he does keep his face covered as his tether copies him, not vice versa. He is seen trying to perform a magic trick involving a lighter multiple times, but given the common conceptions on masks, it seems as if the mask would have more depth in meaning than just serving as protection. So, it all remains a mystery.
The thriller aspect of the movie as a whole is pervasive, that being the scenario of evil doubles taking over the world because they’re jealous of us. The supposedly symbolic items like the rabbits and Jason’s mask are left ambiguous, which leaves me in shambles trying to connect the dots. A real plus was that I could peacefully sleep at night without the lights on the night I saw it, but in another world, that’s disappointing because it wasn’t scary enough, just brain crushing with theories and confusion. But, this might be the first time I’ve ever been so invested into solving the cliffhanger and mysteries, so I’d like to thank Peele for both giving and destroying my brain’s ability to rest. I’m convinced that my doppelgänger and I are truly living the best of both worlds.