Multi award-winning filmmaker and director of 2017 blockbuster Get Out, Jordan Peele, released a psychological horror and thriller, Us in March 2019. Fans of Peele’s projects and horror films in general, or even the odd curious person who wanted to see what all the hype was about were all lured into the cinema this spring. The movie grossed a ridiculous amount of money totalling over $251 million worldwide.
Get Out confused some viewers as they didn’t know whether to class it as a horror, thriller, sci-fi or just a really gripping movie and so Peele made it clear that Us IS a horror film. Peele admitted in an interview that both Get Out and Us were part of a sequence of screenplays he wrote all at once so there are some noticeable connections between the two. For some viewers, Peele had already set the bar quite high with Get Out and were interested to see whether he could outdo himself.
So, one of the main themes here is duality, we see it in the symbolism, in the props and even the doppelgängers. If we assume that Get Out and Us are loosely connected, both movies act as a social commentary of the marginalisation within American society: Get Out discusses racial issues and Us is centred around society and class. Peele is no stranger to using symbolism to drive a plot and in Us there are several references to duality from the beginning to the very end. The movie opens with rabbits which are a common symbol of duality because of their symmetrical ears, the repeated use of number ‘11’, scissors which are two identical knives together and the concept of Above and Below. Talk about genius!
We could connect the theme of duality to the subsequent theme of binary oppositions. This idea is clearly illustrated through the presentation of the Tethered people who literally cannot exist without their counterparts that roam freely Above. Perhaps Peele is trying to illustrate to viewers that in order for class systems to exist at all, there has to be a hierarchy: An Above and Below or in other words, upper class and lower class. Peele arguably uses Red as mouthpiece to commentate on the ‘us vs them’ dynamic that society creates, she describes it as an illusion of hierarchy and her challenge against segregation and opposition is represented through her ‘Hands Across America’ movement to illustrate unity and equality.
As mentioned, Us discusses the wedge that classist issues create within American society. Normally in these debates we look to political leaders and systems as the creators of such issues, however, Peele places emphasis on ‘us’ as everyday citizens and the role that we play and therefore depicting us as the true villains. This self-reflection is further accentuated through the representation of the doppelgängers of the Wilson family which forces them to go one on one with each other and the characters become a personification of the 1:1 ratio.
There are classic horrific elements to the movie but the scariest part, which appears to be a running theme across Peele’s projects, is the uncomfortable realism of the plot lines and hidden messages. Us is a gripping, don’t-look-away type of film and had the whole cinema gasping in shock. It’s expected that we feel overwhelmed by the amount of detail but that’s what Peele wants! He wants us to watch it again and again and notice different things each time, that’s the beauty of a film that keeps on giving. A solid 10/10!
Written by Precious Sodimu (IG: Preciousxo__)