Yesterday, I went to see Us. Normally I don’t go in for horror and it’s kinda out of season but after sleeping on Get Out I knew I had to see Us in the theater.
I left the theater feeling unsettled. I walked outside and around the side of the theater into bright sunlight to record some quick thoughts. I accidentally ended up standing in front of the Us movie poster while recording. When I got back inside I was still feeling off. I didn’t really recover until the pre-roll for Shazam started an hour later. If I hadn’t gone to see Shazam, I don’t know how long it might have taken for me to recover.
Despite ending the film unsettled there were a few scenes that made me laugh. There was a tumblr post about how Jordan Peele has made the transition from comedy to horror. It pointed out that humor and horror are about building tension and the difference is how you release that tension. You can see this in many Key & Peele sketches that zig-zag between the two.
In Us, the bits of comedy never took away from the horror. The film didn’t linger in the comedy; it hit those beats and continued on. I do wonder if the comedy didn’t enhance the horror. Did those fleeting moments of mirth provide needed contrast to the near constant dread?
Some elements of the film, doppelgangers or clones, memories, personhood, are things that I often think about. I’ve touched upon them in some of my writing but not in a horror format. In a way, this film was made to scare me.
Spoiler thoughts under the cut
The concept of the Tethered is outright horrifying to me. To be a person or have a person forced to mimic another person’s life actions, removing their free will, is worst than death to me.
But also someone who knows your own thoughts who is trying to kill you doubly scary.
The opening text felt like a red herring at first. A ‘spooky’ fact to set the stage but it turned out to be foreshadowing the origins of the Tethered.
I really want to listen to Red’s final speech again. She mentions a miracle at one point but I can’t remember if she was talking about her and Adelaide’s switch or what happened later when she was dancing.
If she was talking about the switch, the miracle may have been the power outage causing the down escalator to stop and letting Red reach Adelaide when she might not have been able to otherwise.
If the miracle was the dancing, it might have been that once ‘Adelaide’ learned how to express herself their link might have been weakened enough to let Red act on her own part of the time. This would explain how she created a cult among the Tethered who until then had no free will.
The reveal that Adelaide was actually one of the Tethered was almost perfectly timed for me. I noticed when she killed Red that she briefly made some Tethered like sounds. That put the idea in my head but I wasn’t sure until the flashback in the ambulance started. In retrospect, there are earlier hints but I thought they were showing that above ground people aren’t that different from the Tethered if pushed. Which is kind of true since the two girls were able to adapt to each other’s world.
Oh, I just realized that the fact that there were more than just doppelgangers of the family is outright stated in the film when we see the dead guy with the 11.11 sign and then see his Tethered on the beach. How did I miss that? I figured out the Tethered were more widespread when saw them kill that white family.
Also, the guy on the beach was lined up for the hands across America thing not just enjoying the sun like I thought at first, though he may have been doing that too.