With Us, Jordan Peele has created another fresh horror vision. Of course, Peele also references classic horror movies throughout the film. Here are three of them (minor spoilers):
Dawn of the Dead
George Romero’s 1978 masterpiece uses a mall setting to comment on commercialism, blurring the line between zombies mindlessly consuming flesh and humans mindlessly consuming goods. It ends with a series of shots showing zombies enjoying the mall’s products. Us deals with similar themes, focusing on humans who can’t stop buying and soulless semi-humans who have never had that opportunity. After gaining freedom, Elizabeth Moss’s doppelganger smiles into a mirror as she applies lipstick for her very first time. Like the zombies at the end of Dawn, it’s telling that one her first independent decisions is to use an artificial product.
Jordan Peele has acknowledged his admiration for The Sixth Sense, but alien movie Signs was another early critical and commercial success for M. Night Shyamalan. In Signs, Shyamalan slowly tracks the camera across its family in one continuous shot as they watch the news and realize the global significance of what is happening. Later, Merrill, Joaquin Phoenix’s character, watches the news again, and the camera lingers on the TV itself until a frightening alien reveals itself. When the family in Us are in their friends’ home, Peele copies both of these shots and places them back-to-back for very similar effect, as the family learns of the disturbing reality of what is happening around the world, shocking us and them alike.
The Hills Have Eyes
Wes Craven’s 1977 original follows a family on a vacation in the desert. They are terrorized by a family removed from society, with names such as Jupiter, Mercury, and Pluto. Not only is the family in Us also on vacation, but the youngest child in their doppelganger family is, in fact, also named Pluto. This Easter egg invites some interesting thematic comparisons about isolation, civilization, and disability.