- This article contains spoilers for Us
Us is a hell of a horror movie. The doppelgänger home invasion chiller, from ‘Get Out’ filmmaker Jordan Peele, centres around a young family (Lupita Nyong’o and Washington Duke play parents Adelaide and Gabriel) on vacation in Santa Cruz, whose holiday home comes under attack from assailants who look just like them. It always doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but horror movies often don’t; they’re warped fairy tales, a sojourn into another, more fantastical world. And Jordan Peele, a bonafide horror nut, loves the genre, a fact evidenced by the geekery in Us.
From zombie splatter-fests to vintage classics, there are plenty of nods to horror movies of yesteryear for eagle-eyed fans to enjoy. Let us count the ways – if you dare! One-a-ha-ha, two-a-ha-ha…
Funny Games (1997)
This Austrian home invasion flick, directed by Michael Haneke (he also remade it 10 years later, for some reason), follows a superficially similar plot to US in that it’s about an idyllic holiday home rudely interrupted by sadistic bad bastards. When said bad bastards break into the house, they strike middle-class father figure George on the leg with a baseball bat, which is exactly what happens in Us. A home run!
A Fulci eye gouge attempt
Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci, responsible (and responsible really is the right word here) for such delightful abominations as Zombi 2, was obsessed with eyeballs – and, more specifically, with shoving things into them. Think of the famous Zombi 2 scene where a character has a plank of wood jammed through her eye. Or maybe don’t, if you want to hold onto your breakfast. These kinds of incidents recurred through Fulci’s work, and Peele gives him a cute nod in Us when Gabriel comes wincingly close to having his eye stabbed by his lookalike.
The Shining (1980)
Well, twins are always creepy, aren’t they? I’m joking! Sort of. Anyway, the Adelaide and Gabriel’s family are mates with another, wealthier family whose holiday home is based close to their own, and their daughters are identical twins, not unlike those from The Shining. In fact, Lupita Nyong’o has said that Peele gave her a list of horror movies to watch before they began shooting US, and that that list featured the Stephen King adaptation, so it seems unlikely that this was accidental.
In addition, Peele himself has spoken about his love for the Stanley Kubrick film, telling The Wall Street Journal: “Visual tropes that I’m not into? Dark, scuzzy houses. I like it when horror movies take place in Idyllic places. Somewhere like the Overlook Hotel should be good. It’s welcoming, it’s nice, it’s beautiful, it’s extravagant. That’s what really scares me.”
The Birds (1963)
Peele also requested that Nyong’o watched Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Daphne De Maurier’s deliciously absurd short story of the same name, and it’s in the finale of ‘Us’ that he evokes the mood of Hitch’s movie. That empty, eerily quiet street, deserted in the wake of an attack, and the dread sense that there’s another onslaught impending – it’s an atmosphere lifted from The Birds, draped like a feathery wing over Us.
The Strangers (2008)
Another home invasion movie, this Bryan Bertino flick, starring Liv Tyler, features a character known as Man in the Mask, who combines a natty brown suit with a horrible bag-like white mask. In Us, Adelaide and Gabriel’s son, Jason (Evan Alex), meets his doppelgänger Pluto, who wears a creepy white mask similar to the one from The Strangers. And that’s not the only item of clothing in Us that nods to another famous horror movie…
Well, yeah, obvious one, but throughout Peele’s movie, Jason wears a Jaws t-shirt, though this isn’t the only evocation of Spielberg’s classic creature feature – the Santa Cruz setting is eerily reminiscent of Amity, the seaside town from Jaws, and the beach scene in US is charged with the same sense of impending doom that permeates the ’70s movie, shots of kids playing juxtaposed with the violence thats about to be unleashed.