I’ve never been much of a fan of horror movies. The pointless jumpscares and the plots that anyone can smell from a mile away. Nothing and no one could convince me to watch one until I was forced to watch the movie “Us” for a grade in a philosophy class. My mom doesn’t play about my grades like that…so let me change my statement – the only person who could convince me to watch a horror movie (without even knowing they did) was my mother. In “Us” directed by Jordan Peele, there was something beyond the surface that made the plot so much more thought-provoking. Peele, director of the film, went from a comedian to one of the best upcoming horror movie directors.
The movie starts with Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) returning to her childhood home near a beachfront with her husband (Winston Duke), son (Evan Alex), and daughter (Shahadi Wright Joseph). Adelaide becomes increasingly worried that bad things will happen because she is haunted by a traumatic event from her past. When four strangers dressed in masks enter the house and force the Wilsons to fight for their lives, her worst fears quickly become a reality. The family is horrified to learn that each attacker is their doppelganger when the masks are removed.
In other horror movies like The Conjuring, Smile, and Saw, the audience gets introduced to the characters (who are mostly white) and the token Black character that gets killed off in the first five minutes. I mean come on, as a Black person I don’t wanna see people who look like me dying over and over again as if it is some sort of default. It makes it seem like I wouldn’t stand a chance (I mean I wouldn’t, but I still don’t wanna see it). For generations the same content continues to flow, it was the same words just in a different font. Franchises like Scream and Scary Movie built their success off of the mere fact that they could see this pattern and make fun of it. “Us,” on the other hand, breaks those rules entirely.
My first thought was “What could a horror movie possibly have to do with philosophy?” When I watched the movie for the first time it took some time until I could finally grasp the entire concept of the movie. It reminded me of Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave. The allegory begins with the introduction of the characters that are trapped in a cave. The cave shields them from the outside world – the truth, the good, and the bad. In this cave, the prisoners were being controlled by a master puppeteer. Thinking about the movie through this metaphor adds layers of meaning and makes it a more effective or thoughtful movie than others for me.
This story basically tells the story of the philosophical idea of truth, and how those with various encounters or foundations might see it. Because the shadows on the cave wall are always changing, those who see them can only experience a false reality instead of stability or consistency. Like in the movie “Us” in the beginning the audience sees Adelaide’s younger self see another version of herself – her tether (otherwise known as her shadow double). In theory, they are the same person but with the same experiences but there was something broken about the tethered version of Adelaide.
In the article, Horror and Self Reflection: Jordan Peele’s Us, Plato, and Modern America, author Justin Biggi says, “Us asks audiences to confront the reality of the modern-day U.S., still so unwilling to acknowledge its legacy of violence and imperialism, built on the backs of enslaved people. This pushes the viewers to seriously interrogate the nature of both the Tethered and their counterparts, and to question who is or isn’t the bad guy. It is in the final twist that “Us” appears most distant from Plato’s own allegory of the cave”. Peele added a twist to an old tale and made it applicable to life today. With each watch, viewers would be able to get something new from watching the film. It doesn’t just end after one watch.
I loved that the movie wasn’t meaningless to watch. After watching “Us” you will be able to sit and think about what you just watched because the twist at the end sticks with you and you will find yourself remembering the movie months after watching it.