Ever since the very first trailer for Jordan Peele’s Us dropped a few months back, horror fans have been going wild trying to theorize and untangle the wicked web Peele, a.k.a the new master of suspense, was weaving. And with the movie’s release this week it’s obvious that he did not disappoint. Horror fans and critics can agree on how good this movie was. GGA’s own Kimberly Pierce wrote “Like his Oscar winning screenplay for Get Out, there are a tremendous amount of narrative flourishes at play in Us. In fact, it feels difficult to catch everything about it in a single viewing. Metaphors about duality, references to Hands Across America and well-constructed allegories are often tough to truly appreciate the first time through, making it definitely worthy of a second viewing,” in her review of Us. I couldn’t agree more.
So! Being GGA’s resident scream queen and a lover of Easter Eggs, I couldn’t help noticing a few cleverly placed extras throughout the film that deserve to be pointed out. Check out the trailer for Us below and consider this your major spoiler warning for everything below that.
Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.
Peele wastes no time with these Easter Eggs. From the get-go, the title of the film offers a secret meaning. When little Jason Wilson (Evan Alex) realizes the strangers breaking into his family’s home to be doppelgängers of themselves he says “It’s us.” Add a couple periods to that and you get U.S. In an interview with Yahoo! Peele explains “There’s a double meaning to everything… This movie’s about duality.” He also revealed that this movie was inspired by current the state of the country. One of the first things Adelaide’s doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong’o) says in the film, when asked who they were, replies with “We’re Americans.”
The film opens with an old school television surrounded by trinkets and VHS tapes. Some of them appear to be home made tapes that have the written labels on them. There’s a copy of Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff included for some reason. The remaining store bought tapes, however, should at least look familiar to movie lovers.
First we have C.H.U.D, a 1984 sci-fi/horror flick about deaths caused by a cannibal population, known as the ‘Undergrounders’, that live in the sewers of New York. Almost half way into Us, the Wilson family are watching a news report on the Tethered uprising. At one point one witness on the report claimed that “…Someone said they were coming from the sewers.” Coincidence? Maybe. This brief appearance of C.H.U.D could also simply be a nod to the film’s director, Douglas Cheek, who according to an interview with Polygon was the father of Jordan Peele’s very first girlfriend! Adorable.
Next we see a copy of the The Goonies, another movie that centers around an undesirable creature that lives in the sewers. It was directly quoted in Red’s big, “evil villain” speech in the underground classroom when she tells Adelaide, “It’s our time now. Our time, up there.”
Next up is copy of the 1983 Steve Martin comedy, The Man With Two Brains, a movie all about two very different entities sharing one body. Sound familiar? This could also be a nod to Get Out as well with the whole brain washing thing.
Finally, we see a copy of Wes Craven’s 1984 slasher Nightmare on Elm Street. This movie is referenced several times throughout Us in the form of Pluto’s burnt face that look identical to Freddy Krueger’s, the fact that all the Tethered wear a single, brown glove and when Adelaide has to venture through a scary looking boiler room, like the one where Freddy took many of his victims.
White rabbits appear several times throughout the film. First in the opening credits in their cages, which are arranged in rows of 11 (keep that in mind). Then when we are introduced to the Tethered version of the Wilsons, Red tells a story in which they have to eat “rabbit, raw and bloody.” Rabbits have even invaded the wardrobe of this movie! In her first outfit we see Zora Wilson (Shahadi Wright Joseph) wearing a t-shirt with a rabbit design. Then in her pajamas she’s wearing a long sleeve shirt with one word on it, THO. People could assume this to be an abbreviation for the word “though”. But what many fail to notice is the accent above the O, making it “Thỏ”. Which is Vietnamese for “rabbit.”
So, what do the rabbits mean? There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer here. It just depends on who you ask. In art, rabbits or hares are common subjects in nature that may signify rebirth or resurrection. They are also common as test subjects in labs. The Tethered appeared to have been made in a lab. And, as internet sleuths have cleverly pointed out, the U.S. has an embarrassing history of doing medical tests on humans from poor populations. Especially poor black populations.
This specific Bible verse appears three times in Us. When young Adelaide passes a homeless man at the carnival holding up a cardboard sign with the verse. Then on the drive to the vacation house they see the same homeless man wounded and clutching another cardboard sign with the same verse. And again when his Tethered doppelgänger carves “11:11” into his own forehead. Ouch.
But this isn’t the first time we see the number 11 play some significant role in this film. Remember those rabbit cages? We see 11:11 appear yet again on Jason’s bedroom clock. And just what does the Jeremiah 11:11 verse say? According to the King James version it states: “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” Could the repetition of 11 be a warning that the Tethered were getting closer to “bring evil upon” the people above ground? I’m gonna go with yeah, most likely.
Zora competes in track and field. She’s pretty good at it, too. Another potential nod to Get Out is the fact that the grandfather in that movie, the one that took over that poor gardener’s body, was a former track and field star that lost to Jesse Owens in the Olympics. It’s a subtle connection but an interesting one either way.
The Boat Motor
Another potential callback to vintage horror comes in the form of the fight scene between Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and his doppelgänger, Abraham, on the Wilsons’ “new” boat. It ends with poor Abe getting chopped up by the boat’s motor when he gets shoved into the water. The whole sequence was similar to a scene from the 1978 slasher I Spit On Your Grave, where one of the characters is also killed by a boat’s outboard motor.
More potential wardrobe inspiration could stem from the Michael Jackson Thriller shirt young Adelaide won at the boardwalk. The video, where Jackson wears a red jacket and pants to go with his iconic accessory a single glove, most likely inspired the uniform the Tethered wear: red coveralls and a single glove. And the fact they wear coveralls might be a reference to some more vintage horror, specifically to one of the genre’s most infamous villains, Halloween’s Michael Myers.
The Board Games
After the Tethered Wilsons invade the summer house we see Jason and Pluto hanging out in the closet. In the background we see the typical summer necessities: sewing stuff, a toy house, what could be some camping gear and board games. The games include Candyland and Drop It as well as Monster Trap, where monsters invade a home, and Guess Who?, which is all about matching faces.
The Lost Boys
In the beginning of the film, young Adelaide is spending her birthday with her parents on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, her mother makes the comment, “They’re filming something by the carousel. You should see if they’re looking for extras.” Well, just so happens that the opening scene to Joel Schumacher’s teen vampire flick The Lost Boys was filmed on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in 1986. Complete with the previously mentioned carousel!
Did we miss any? Let us know and tell us your favorites!
Us is in theaters nationwide.