With his feature directorial debut Get Out (spoiler ahead if you still haven't watched it), Jordan Peele made sure to leave fans plenty of clues and Easter eggs that teased some major secrets about the plot, like why do the lobotomised characters wear hats? To cover their scars!!!
For the uninitiated (though, honestly, stop now if you don’t want to read any spoilers) Us is about a family who goes on a retreat to the beach, only to find themselves stalked by doppelgängers in red jumpsuits wielding scissors. The “Tethered” have no interest in putting their doubles in the Sunken Place. They straight-up want to kill them.
If you were paying super close attention to the movie, you may have been able to predict some plot points and saved yourself a few scares. If not? Here are some Easter eggs you may have missed.
The Video Tapes
At the beginning of the film, we see a TV with several videotapes on top. The tapes include C.H.U.D., a 1984 horror movie about cannibals who live in underground tunnels. The acronym stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller. While the doppelgängers don’t eat people — just kill them! — they do live underground, and Peele even makes sure to note in text before the film begins that there are thousands of miles of unused tunnels in America, many which have no known purpose. Another tape is of The Goonies, which also features an underground plot.
The “Thriller” Tee
In the film, a young Adelaide wears T-shirt of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video. While “Thriller” was certainly popular at the time, the video — which shows Jackson transforming into both a werewolf and a zombie — plays on the notion of “duality.”
"Michael Jackson is probably the patron saint of duality," said Peele in an interview with Mashable, noting the child abuse accusations made against Jackson in the documentary Leaving Neverland. "The movie starts in the '80s — the duality with which I experienced him [Jackson] in that time was both as the guy that presented this outward positivity, but also the 'Thriller' video which scared me to death."
In the movie, former Friends babies Noelle and Cali Sheldon portray twins, the daughters of family friends of the Wilsons. Though The Shining does not include identical twins, one of the most famous images from the film is of blonde, very similar-looking sisters who haunt the Overlook Hotel. In reality, the actresses who portrayed these siblings are not related, and are certainly not identical twins, even though the characters are often assumed to be identical. The Shining, according to Entertainment Weekly, was one of the 10 films that Peele told his cast to watch to prepare for Us. Did some of Peele’s homework make its way onto the big screen?
The scissors are the weapon of choice for the tethered, but there is also something unique about them. A scissor has a "mirror image" within it; two halves of a whole, that, when put together, can bring about destruction.
"There's a duality to scissors, both literally and physically," Peele told Entertainment Weekly. "They're a whole made up of two parts, but also they lie in this territory between the mundane and the absolutely terrifying."
The "Hands Across America" References
Hands Across America was a real social movement from 1986, intended to raise enough money to eradicate poverty in the United States. It didn't, and the organisation fell short of its $50 million dollar goal, raising closer to $15 million to be dispersed to various charities.
"There’s something cult-like about the imagery that makes me think of the Manson family singing folk songs as they leave the courtroom," Peele told The New York Times of why he chose to use Hands Across America. "There’s like an insistence that as long as we have each other, we can walk blindly past the ugliness and evil that we may be a part of."
Hands Across America may have tried to do good and succeeded in raising money to help those in need, but as Peele suggests, it's not enough to merely hold hands, sing, and then go about one's business. In Us, the Wilson family has no idea of the doppelgängers suffering below their feet, just as many people of privilege are unaware of the pain that their mere existence is causing the less fortunate.
The Title Itself
"Us" obviously refers to the fact that the invaders look exactly like the Wilson family (it's "us" coming to get us!), but it also has a dual meaning. Us can also be read as U.S., as in, the United States. In the film, Adelaide's doppelgängers Red (Lupita Nyong'o) even notes that she and her twinning family are "Americans."
"There’s a double meaning to everything,” Peele confirmed to Yahoo of whether there could be a second title within Us. "Yeah, I mean this movie is about duality and there’s no choice that I’m not trying to layer. The state of this country inspired me. We’re a country that is afraid of the outsider. Whether it’s within our borders or outside of our borders. I think when we fail to point our finger inward, we’re capable of really messing up in big ways."
There may be a lot of meanings to Us, but one thing's certain: You'll be terrified trying to decode all of them.
Us is in cinemas now