Us (2019): A Social Critique Scary and Sharp As Scissors

Us (2019): A Social Critique Scary and Sharp As Scissors

Us is a cautionary film that explores the complexities of identity, privilege, and the darkness that resides within – and directed by the master himself, Jordan Peele. 

Plot

A family's relaxing beach vacation turns into a nightmare when they come across an entourage of terrifying doppelgängers known as The Tethered, who are all dressed in red. 

Now, Adelaide Wilson, the protagonist who grew up at this beach house, must confront her past and figure out the frightening reality behind both her and her family’s haunting counterparts as these warped versions of themselves conduct a savage and unrelenting onslaught. 

In a race against time, Adelaide is forced to traverse a world flipped upside down and find The Tethered's deadly roots before becoming victims of their own dark reflections.

The Idea of Duality

Us is about the discovery of duality, both on an individual and communal level. The film introduces us to The Tethered, or doppelgängers who reflect the lives of the main protagonists. Peele cleverly used this symbolic image of duality to highlight the perilous aspect of identity.

This one-of-a-kind idea works as a figurative mirror, forcing spectators to confront their own inner demons and examine the thin line between good and evil.

Although the humans in the tunnels are helpless and without agency, Adelaide demonstrates that this does not have to be the case. The tethered could very well learn to communicate and break free from their doppelgangers.

It’s a lot to take in

Peele's narrative prowess is on full show in Us

There are multiple layers of hidden meaning. From the scissors as a metaphor for severance and division to the repeated presence of rabbits, symbolizing innocence and the illusion of control.

For instance, as The Take reports, Peele says that “There’s a duality to scissors, both literally and physically. They’re a whole made up of two parts. But also they lie in this territory between the mundane and the absolutely terrifying.”

Social Commentary and Marginalisation

Beyond its scary exterior, Us is a strong sociological satire on identity, privilege, and societal inequality. Peele deftly probes the complexity of American culture, utilizing horror as a mirror to highlight the human condition's dark underbelly. 

Adelaide's doppelganger was able to adapt to mainstream society despite entering there as a child. While the actual Adelaide has morphed into a bloodthirsty demon who leads a chained revolt. Societal conditions can easily program one’s successes and failures. 

The film's investigation of the "other," both in the shape of The Tethered and within ourselves, forces viewers to confront painful realities that society frequently conceals.

The Tethered represent individuals who have been marginalised and forgotten, emphasising the consequences of abandoning the impoverished. Peele's perceptive criticism of privilege and societal inequity compels viewers to consider the structures that perpetuate inequities.

Not just jumpscares

Horror is given a far deeper and more terrifying expression in Us, transcending jump scares and gore. It is existential and psychological.

We are not as moral as we believe ourselves to be, and if our shadows are let loose, they may cause great harm. This self-reflective terror makes us consider our own propensity for evil and the brittleness of our own morals.

The terror of Us is based on the investigation of duality, the eerie, and the horrifying shadows that dwell within us.