- Jordan Peele has created another horror masterpiece with “Us,” the terrifying follow-up to “Get Out.”
- Much like “Get Out,” this nightmare has a dizzying ending that will leave you weighing different theories in your head long after you leave the theatre.
- In the video above, we unpack all of the hidden meanings and social commentary within the film’s last couple of scenes.
- Warning: This post contains major spoilers.
Following is a full transcript of the video.
Narrator: Jordan Peele has created another horror masterpiece with “Us,” the terrifying follow-up to “Get Out.” This time, our protagonists are the Wilsons, a family of four who are attacked by their deranged doppelgangers. Soon, we find out that the attackers are part of a whole army of lookalikes who refer to themselves as “The Tethered.”
Much like “Get Out,” this nightmare has a dizzying ending that will leave you weighing different theories in your head long after you leave the theatre. Let’s take a look at those last couple of scenes and unpack all of the hidden meanings and social commentary within them.
WARNING: Spoiler alert!
The film’s final act begins with Adelaide Wilson on the search for her lookalike, Red, who has disappeared with the Wilsons’ son. Interestingly enough, Adelaide seems to know exactly where to go: this house of mirrors, which we’ve seen in partial flashbacks throughout the film. Adelaide wandered into this fun house when she was at the boardwalk as a kid, following a sign that read, “Find Yourself.” There she encountered her double for the first time, and she was never quite the same afterwards.
Now she’s finally returning to the site of this traumatic experience. This time Adelaide goes deeper into the fun house. An escalator then leads her further down the rabbit hole into a strange hallway that’s filled with more bunnies. They’re the same rabbits we saw in the opening credits, but now they have been let out of their cages, and so have The Tethered.
The movie’s opening titles told us that there are thousands of miles of tunnels running underneath the US. This presumably is one those tunnels where The Tethered have lived underground all their lives.
The climax of the film arrives when Adelaide finds Red, and the two finally face off. The violence is intercut with flashbacks to both women as young ballerinas, one performing above ground and the other dancing down below. Finally, Adelaide gets the upper hand in their struggle. As she’s in the midst of killing her double, we hear a lot of guttural sounds, the kind of sounds that The Tethered use to communicate. These low, strangled noises evoke a dark sewage or underground, like the space that The Tethered inhabit. But at this point, we’re not sure whether those noises are coming from Adelaide or Red. It seems like Adelaide is adopting some of the characteristics of The Tethered. Red, in her last moments, begins whistling “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” The eerie melody brings us back yet again to that childhood scene inside the fun house when young Adelaide whistled that tune and heard her double whistle it back at her.
This time though, we’re shown that flashback in its entirety, and now we know what really happened that night. Red had attacked Adelaide, dragged her underground, and handcuffed her to a bed so that she could then take Adelaide’s place in the real world. That’s why at the time, Adelaide’s parents initially didn’t recognise this disturbed, mute version of their daughter. No wonder fake Adelaide was terrified to return to that beach as an adult. She knew the entrance to the portal was there, and she didn’t want to ever go back.
There were other signs too, like when fake Adelaide wasn’t quite snapping on beat. Also, those strange inflections in her speech.
– I think, I feel like it means, like, she’s getting closer.
Narrator: It also explains why the first thing that the real Adelaide did to her longtime impostor was handcuff her. Fake Adelaide remains handcuffed for the rest of the movie until their final confrontation in which she manages to break free. This can only happen when she’s finally slain the real Adelaide at the same bed where she first put her in cuffs.
It makes sense then that the real Adelaide was the only member of The Tethered who could speak. We can see why they’d choose her as their leader. She had the strongest drive for revolution because she was determined to take back her life.
The Tethered’s revolt is foreshadowed by the references to Jeremiah 11:11 throughout the film. This Old Testament verse describes God’s revenge on covenant breakers. “I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. For I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me.” The Tethered have never had their voices heard by those aboveground. Perhaps that’s why when they finally get their revenge, they attack the throats of their targets, right around the voice box.
In the flashback, we also see the two identical girls switch T-shirts. Red puts on Adelaide’s “Thriller” tee, which is one of a few Michael Jackson references in the film. Another is the single glove worn by each member of The Tethered. Peele said these Easter eggs were very much deliberate as he considered MJ the patron saint of duality, which is one of the major themes addressed in “Us.”
The shirt that Red gave Adelaide looks something like this. It read, “Hands Across America,” another very ’80s reference. Hands Across America was a charity benefit held in 1986, the year that the Adelaide-Red switch is supposed to take place. The event called on 6.5 million people to hold hands in a human chain stretching across the US. It lasted for 15 minutes, which is exactly how long it took for Red to switch places with Adelaide. At the beginning of the film, we saw young Adelaide captivated by a Hands Across America promo. Peele had stumbled upon this commercial on YouTube, and he found it cheerful yet disturbing. In other words, the perfect beginning to a horror movie. The whole PR campaign for Hands Across America had the optimistic veneer of the Reaganite era despite the fact that America was in the midst of the Cold War at the time. This paradox made it a great vehicle for the themes of duality and performance that “Us” sought to address.
Peele said, “I wasn’t even in touch with some of the deeper meanings of what this movie is about until I stumbled upon a Hands Across America commercial for MTV. The tone of this commercial just had that sort of ’80s ‘everything’s great’ quality. It took me down this path to imagine what the evil doppelganger version of what Hands Across America would be.”
Over the years Adelaide spent planning The Tethered uprising, she looked to her Hands Across America T-shirt for inspiration. You can see the influence of the event on their ultimate demonstration in which they linked hands to form an ever-growing human chain.
In the end, fake Adelaide wins. She departs with the rest of the Wilsons in the only car available, which is an ambulance. Earlier in the movie, Jason lodged his toy ambulance in the closet door to provide an easy escape, which we now see was a little coin of foreshadowing.
After it’s all over, Jason looks strangely at fake Adelaide as if he recognises something somewhat off about her. They shared a similar moment earlier when Jason walked in on Adelaide stabbing a member of The Tethered with scissors, a sight that visibly alarmed him. But for now, the family just keeps driving.
Out of the windows, we see The Tethered forming their human chain, which stretches over hills. It seems they’re more united than their more privileged counterparts. The scene is portrayed in an almost sentimental light to the tune of the early ’70s flower power song, “Les Fleurs.” This adds to the moral ambiguity of the invaders. Peele doesn’t want us to demonize them or to point fingers.
It’s worth noting that the actual chain formed during Hands Across America had plenty of gaps, just as there are plenty of gaps in privilege and opportunity in the US.
– Can I see your licence please?
– He wasn’t driving.
– I didn’t ask to see who was driving, I asked to see his ID.
Narrator: In “Us,” the people who are on the losing side of those gaps come to claim what is rightfully theirs. They’re an underclass, literally, deprived of sunlight and forced to eat rabbits for sustenance while their counterparts above them enjoy nice meals and material comforts.
– Hey, I think it’s vodka o’clock.
Narrator: The shadowy existence of The Tethered is reflected in some of their names. Jason’s double is called Pluto, who is the God of the Underworld in Roman mythology. Interestingly enough, the planet Pluto got its name because it’s so far from the Sun that it exists in perpetual darkness. It makes sense then that as an inhabitant of the underground, Pluto is obsessed with fire and the bright light it provides. He’s such a pyromaniac that he seems to have burned much of his face in a past incident and ultimately dies by self-immolation.
Meanwhile, the sister Zora’s double is called Umbri, the plural form of Umbra, which means the darkest part of a shadow during the total phase of an eclipse. Adelaide described herself as the shadow self of her impostor. The Tethered have long been relegated to the darkness and rendered invisible, and for the people above them, it’s most comfortable that way.
The horror of “Us” is that the people at the bottom are rising above to settle the scores. It’s a very American nightmare, which explains the double-edged meaning of its title. It’s “Us” but also US. The people aboveground don’t view The Tethered within either of those constructs.
– I thought I already done told y’all to get off my property.
Narrator: They’re not Us but Them. Other. Alien trespassers. In reality though, they have been there all along.
You might notice that “Us” and “Get Out” both begin and end with a car ride, but that’s not the only similarity between the two movies. Both films examine the complacency and disconnect that results from privilege, whether that’s racial privilege or the privilege that comes with social class and citizenship status. Peele uses social horror to shine a glaring light on all of the sunken places in American society. In that way, “Us” and “Get Out” are part of the same universe, and we can’t wait to see the next nightmare Peele has in store for us.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.