'Us' Movie: Analyzed and Explained
Jordan Peele, you are a genius.
If you're reading this article and you're anything like me, that means you most likely watched Jordan Peele's newest horror film, Us, and are a bit confused about what it all meant. Questions should be running through your head and chances are, all you've been thinking about is this movie.
And if that doesn't apply to you and you, for some reason, haven't seen this brilliant film, then to quote another Peele film, GET OUT. Seriously, though. Major spoilers for Us and Get Out are ahead. To read my spoiler-free review, click here.
Now, in my review, I said that I planned on watching it again, because the amount of unsolved mysteries in this film was LITERALLY keeping me awake at night. And that's exactly what I did. This time, I sat down with a notebook and took some (very sloppy) notes on everything that stood out to me this time.
So today, I am going to be analyzing and explaining the events of Us, in chronological order. This is gonna be my own interpretation, and it may not be right or wrong. It's just the way that I perceive the film.
Many years ago, the US government created a program in an attempt to have total control over their people. Their goal was to create clones of existing people that they could control like puppets. These clones were known as the Tethered.
However, they soon discovered that they could duplicate the bodies of people, but they couldn't duplicate their souls. The government couldn't control the Tethered. As a result, people in real life shared the same soul as their Tethered counterpart.
The film opens with text saying there are thousands of miles of tunnels beneath the United States. Many have no known purpose. The government filled these tunnels with the Tethered, keeping them underground.
As people share the same soul as their Tethered counterpart, the one with the stronger portion of the soul controls the other. The Tethered are depicted as much more primitive and not as advanced as humans, which is why humans are stronger, and the Tethered are forced to mimic the actions of humans.
I also believe that the Tethered were able to see what their real-life counterparts saw. The Tethered would essentially have to not only do, but also see what their real-life counterparts did.
The ones with the weaker portion of the soul would just be passengers in their own body, as another person controlled their body. They'd see what the other person saw. They would pretty much be in the Sunken Place from Get Out.
Life for the members of the Tethered was difficult. They were unable to eat any meals, instead, needing to feed on raw rabbits. And according to Red later in the film, on Christmas, they would receive sharp golden objects for Christmas instead of good presents.
The Tethered were eventually completely forgotten, with society being completely oblivious to their existence.
Red and Adelaide
The big twist in this movie is that Red was Adelaide and Adelaide was Red, and to avoid confusion, I'm going to be referring to these two as "Real Adelaide" and "Tethered Adelaide."
On Real Adelaide's birthday in 1986, she watches an advertisement for "Hands Across America," which was an event in which people all over the United States held hands and formed a human chain. Real Adelaide is also wearing a "Hands Across America" t-shirt.
Real Adelaide goes to the amusement park in Santa Fe with her parents. She gets a Michael Jackson's "Thriller" T-Shirt from her dad (a horror music video) and eats a RED candy apple before she wanders off to the beach.
Real Adelaide turns and sees an attraction called Shaman's Vision Quest. As she enters, Tethered Adelaide walks toward her from the tunnel. The power goes out. A few moments later, Real Adelaide turns around and sees Tethered Adelaide. Tethered Adelaide chokes Real Adelaide, and she falls, unconscious.
Tethered Adelaide drags Real Adelaide downstairs and handcuffs Real Adelaide to the bed with a pair of gold handcuffs. She takes Real Adelaide's "Thriller" t-shirt and puts it on herself.
When Real Adelaide wakes up, she is tethered to the bed. She touches her pained throat, unable to speak or yell for help. Her vocal chords are damaged. Tethered Adelaide is now slightly stronger than Real Adelaide, and her movements are no longer completely bound to those of Real Adelaide's.
Real Adelaide is now trapped under the rest of civilization, while Tethered Adelaide assumes her life. For months after the incident, Adelaide's parents are worried, as their daughter hasn't said a word since she exited the hall of mirrors.
They speak with a professional, and they believe that their daughter has been traumatized by what she witnessed. In actuality, it is because Tethered Adelaide did not know how to speak English, and was therefore mute.
For the next few years, Tethered Adelaide begins to learn how to speak English. Meanwhile, underground, Real Adelaide is unable to find an exit and instead must slowly adjust to her life underground.
And I believe it is around this time that the two Adelaides are playing a bit of tug-of-war with each other where sometimes, Real Adelaide controls Tethered Adelaide, and other times, Tethered Adelaide controls Real Adelaide.
Soon, Tethered Adelaide goes to dancing class, where she learns how to be her own person and discover herself. And I believe that it is the performance we see in the film when Tethered Adelaide ended up with the stronger part of the soul, and assumed control over Real Adelaide.
At the end of the film, Real Adelaide tells Tethered Adelaide, "If it wasn't for you, I never would have danced at all." This shows how at that point, Real Adelaide couldn't help but do Tethered Adelaide's dance routine underground, showing the significance behind this scene.
But as the years went by, Real Adelaide grew angrier and angrier with the knowledge that the fake version of herself was in the real world, living the life that SHE deserved to live. Her desperation to escape becomes anger, strengthening her soul.
Eventually, her soul grew strong enough to break free. Real Adelaide and Tethered Adelaide could move independently because they shared equal halves of their soul. Real Adelaide was able to partially free the rest of the Tethered, enough to get them all to participate in her revolution.
Inspired by the "Hands Across America" t-shirt that she wore as a child, she wanted to make the presence of the Tethered known to the world. She didn't just seek to kill Tethered Adelaide; she wanted to make a statement.
And before Real Adelaide broke free, she could still see what Tethered Adelaide saw. That's how Real Adelaide knew when Tethered Adelaide would be coming back to Santa Fe. She knew how to time her revolution perfectly.
On the day that Tethered Adelaide and her family are going to Santa Cruz, Real Adelaide and the rest of the Tethered have begun their revolution. Tethered Adelaide is very apprehensive about going back to the beach.
We assume this is because of her traumatic experience when in actuality, it is because Tethered Adelaide knows that the beach is where Real Adelaide is and she wanted to stay as far away from her as possible.
As the family is on their way to the beach, they see the bloody corpse of a homeless man (Mr. Jeremiah 11:11) being put into an ambulance truck. Later that day, we see his Tethered counterpart on the beach with his arms out.
The Tethered counterpart had just murdered the real homeless guy and was standing on the beach with his arms out as the beginning of the Tethered human chain.
Also, when Tethered Adelaide is sitting with Kitty on the beach, Tethered Adelaide says, "I have a hard time just... talking." The reason she has a hard time talking is because she only learned to communicate with English by listening to other people.
That night, Tethered Adelaide tells Gabe about what happened to her as a child; only it didn't happen to HER. It happened to Real Adelaide. But Tethered Adelaide tells the story from Real Adelaide's perspective because again, the Tethered can see what we see.
When the Tethered family breaks in, the power goes out, like it did in the hall of mirrors. Real Adelaide explains why she was there, beginning her story with "once upon a time," the classic beginning to fairy tales. This is because she was familiar with fairy tales from her time in the real world as a child.
Real Adelaide is also the only one amongst the Tethered who can speak English. The rest of the Tethered only make clicks and other noises, but the reason Real Adelaide speaks English while the rest don't is because she's human.
In her story, she mentions how because Tethered Adelaide married Gabe, Real Adelaide had to marry Abraham. She states that she was, "tethered to the girl's prince." Nice little play on words.
Real Adelaide then tells Tethered Adelaide to TETHER herself to the table with gold handcuffs. This parallels what happened when they were children, when Tethered Adelaide handcuffed Real Adelaide to the bed, and now, Tethered Adelaide must do it to herself.
When the Tethered break into the Tyler family's house, you can see the power go out again before quickly turning back on due to their background generator. I have yet to uncover the link between the entrance of the Tethered and power outages.
When Tethered Adelaide reenters the Tyler house to get their car keys, she gets attacked by one of the Tethered twins. After a quick fight, Tethered Adelaide grabs the scissors and brutally murders the twin, letting out an ear-piercing maniacal shriek as she does so.
Jason, her son, sees her do this and is visibly disturbed by this. Later, in the forest, when Tethered Adelaide walks into the forest and encounters Umbrae, Tethered Adelaide communicates with her, knowing that she can do this because they are both members of the Tethered.
The following morning on the beach, the family runs into Pluto, Jason's Tethered counterpart. But at this point, the members of the Tethered are fluctuating between their own actions and copying their real-life counterparts.
And that's why Jason is able to kill Pluto. Jason's soul remains slightly stronger than Pluto's, forcing him to mimic the actions of Jason and walk into the burning fire.
After Jason gets kidnapped by Real Adelaide, Tethered Adelaide enters the hall of mirrors again. This time, she goes down to the basement. It seems a bit too easy for her to just find this hidden place, but it makes sense given that it's where she was as a child.
Years after Tethered Adelaide cuffed Real Adelaide to the bed, Tethered Adelaide murders Real Adelaide in front of the very same bed. Before Real Adelaide dies, she whistles "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," the same thing she did right before she met Tethered Adelaide for the first time.
After Tethered Adelaide snaps Real Adelaide's neck, she lets out another bloodcurdling scream and then begins to laugh in a very creepy way. When I heard this, I immediately thought of how much it reminded me of Real Adelaide's laugh earlier in the film.
So Tethered Adelaide saves Jason, but Jason doesn't look too thrilled to see her. As the family sits in the ambulance truck, Jason eyes his mother suspiciously, thinking back to what he witnessed back in the Tyler house.
Tethered Adelaide thinks back to what she did in the past.
As Jason looks at her, Tethered Adelaide knows that Jason knows her secret. But she drives away, and what happens next is left unknown.
Believe it or not, this is not everything I found. There is SO MUCH that still needs to be uncovered in this film. Let's dive into our next mystery.
At the amusement park, Adelaide sees a homeless man carrying a sign that says Jeremiah 11:11. Years later, she is able to recognize his corpse because he is holding the same sign. The man's Tethered counterpart has 11:11 carved into his forehead.
What does the Bible passage say? This.
"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."
What did this have to do with the story? Throughout the film, Red references God on numerous occasions, believing that she was being tested by God. So throughout the film, she is essentially following this verse.
She is bringing evil (the Tethered) upon the people of the world, and they would not be able to escape them.
11:11 could also be used because the number is symmetrical, and on both sides of the colon, we have two duplicates. Later in the film, Gabe is watching a baseball game, and we hear the commentator say the game is tied 11-11. In the next scene, Jason points at the clock when the time is 11:11.
One of the animals that repeatedly pops up in this film is rabbits. The opening credits of the film played over a shot of numerous rabbits in cages. But why are rabbits so prominent in this film?
My interpretation is that the rabbits represent the Tethered. The rabbits we see in the beginning of the film are locked away in cages, similar to how the Tethered are stored underground.
When Adelaide first enters the hall of mirrors, she encounters one free rabbit, just as she was about to encounter one free member of the Tethered.
And at the end of the film, when Adelaide reenters the underground world of the Tethered, the cages are empty, and the rabbits are free to roam around the room, just as at that point in the film, the Tethered are free to roam around the world.
You take that along with the fact that the Tethered actually eat the rabbits, and you have a pretty damn good analogy.
Rabbits don't just make appearances beneath the ground, either. Near the beginning of the film, we can see that Zora, the daughter, is wearing a shirt that has a rabbit on it.
Later in the film, she wears a hoodie that has "thỏ" written on it, which translate to "rabbit" in Vietnamese.
More Symbolism, Foreshadowing, and Explanations
Let's begin with the opening of the film. If you think about it, the opening scene of this movie gives away everything you need to know.
We began with some reading about the tunnels underneath the U.S. and how some don't serve any known purpose. These are the tunnels that the Tethered live in.
We then see a TV commercial for "Hands Across America," an event in which people would, and I quote, TETHER themselves together to raise awareness. Later in the film, the Tethered form this human chain to create awareness that they exist.
The TV screen cuts to black briefly, and we see Adelaide's dark reflection in the screen (the first shot we see of Adelaide isn't a direct shot of her). And right after that, we have a commercial for Santa Cruz beach, which is where the passageway to the world of the Tethered is.
At the amusement park, Adelaide eats a RED candy apple, which may foreshadow later, as all of the members of the Tethered wear RED jumpsuits and she would eventually be named Red.
When the family arrives in Santa Cruz, Gabe tells Zora a joke: "Knock knock."
And later in the film, it is "you" who starts knocking on their door.
The family is also seen seated at a table eating a meal. You may notice that everyone at the table appears to be eating fast food except for Adelaide; Adelaide is the only one eating RED strawberries.
This not only symbolizes how Adelaide is actually Red, but also how she may not be too accustomed to eating most human foods.
And later, Adelaide looks on the table. She sees a fake spider on it, and a tiny little real spider crawling under the fake spider. This symbolizes how the fake Adelaide was above, and the real Adelaide was below the fake one.
In addition, we have a lot of mirrors and reflections in this movie.
For example, when young Adelaide is watching her parents talk to the specialist, she is not watching them in person. She is watching them in the reflection of the mirror.
At night, when Gabe is talking to Adelaide from the bathroom, we don't see Gabe. We just see his reflection in the bathroom mirror. And as Adelaide gives the story of what happened to her when she was younger, we see her reflection through the glass.
When Adelaide is looking at a photo of herself when she was a teenage dancer, she looks up and sees another version of herself, as a teenager in a dancing outfit. The "teenager" then turns to the mirror and looks at Adelaide through the reflection.
In a scene that takes place right around this one, we get a shot of Zora looking at her reflection in the mirror. This all represents how much time we spend looking at mirror images of ourselves and of other people. And later, the mirror images of the family come to haunt them.
Jason also wears a Jaws t-shirt, another horror film where the danger happened on a beach.
A small toy ambulance truck holds the closet door open to keep Jason from being trapped. Later in the film, an ambulance truck keeps the family from being trapped in Santa Cruz with no method of transportation.
When Adelaide says that they should leave Santa Cruz, she says, "I don't feel like myself." That's because she isn't actually HERSELF. She's a member of the Tethered, not the real Adelaide.
Throughout the movie, we don't just get mirror shots. We also get shots of shadows. This symbolizes how the Tethered are the "shadows" to the real people.
Early in the movie, Zora tells the family about how the government puts fluoride in the water to control our minds. While this isn't exactly true, this film does have a failed government experiment in which they tried to control our minds.
While on the beach, Jason digs a sand tunnel, which is interesting as they were on the beach, right where the Tethered live under in tunnels.
There's also another little detail that I noticed. In the picture below, take notice of the painting in the very center, above the fireplace.
You'll notice that there are four human-like figures. This represents the four members of the family. Out of these four figures, ONE of them is red. The red figure represents Adelaide, as she is actually a member of the Tethered, who wear red.
When the Tethered family is breaking into the house, the Wilson family freaks out when Red unlocks the door using a key hidden under a rock. Red knew where the key was because she used to live in the house as a child.
On the beach, Gabe mentions that he has a boat, and realizes that he forgot a flare gun. Josh tells Gabe that he needs a flare gun. Later in the film, Gabe runs into Josh's boat, finds a flare gun, and kills Josh's doppelgänger, Tex, with it.
When Gabe is killing Tex, Dahlia, Kitty's doppelgänger, watches through the window. Through her reflection in the glass, we see that she appears to begin to cry, only to then emote an evil, satisfied smile.
This really threw me off, but I realized it made sense. Kitty married Josh, so Dahlia was forced to marry Tex, who she had no feelings for. Add that to the fact that earlier in the film, Kitty joked about how she thought about murdering her husband, and you can see how Dahlia isn't too sad to see Tex die.
Another scene with Dahlia that stood out to me is a scene where she is looking at her reflection in the mirror and she puts on lip gloss. Why was this included? It's because Dahlia had never seen her reflection before. Now that she sees what she looks like, she puts on lip gloss, finally able to beautify herself.
Dahlia also takes the golden scissors and slices herself in the face as she watches in the mirror. This can be taken multiple different ways, but I perceive it to be symbolic of how humans can harm themselves at times.
When Adelaide is walking through the amusement park, as she walks by the Jeremiah 11:11 guy, she sees a couple playing rock-paper-scissors. Each one of these comes into part in the film. Jason kills Dahlia with a rock, scissors are the weapon used by the Tethered, and Red creates a model of two people with paper.
In the opening scene, we see tapes of other films on the shelf such as The Goonies and C.H.U.D.. I haven't seen these films, but from what I heard, they have connections to this film.
And here's something else that I noticed that I haven't uncovered the mystery behind. In the scene at the beginning, Adelaide enters the hall of mirrors and outside it, the attraction is Shaman's Vision Quest.
When we return to this place later in the film, it no longer reads "Shaman's Vision Quest". It reads "Merlin's Forest".
I don't yet know the meaning behind this, but rest assured, there must be a TON of little details that I missed given that this film is filled to the top with these tiny details. And now, for my next section on this movie.
The Social Commentary of "Us"
Those who watched Get Out know that Peele enjoys putting metaphors and symbolism in his movies. Like Peele's previous film, there is a bit of social commentary in this movie as well that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways.
First, one of the biggest themes in this movie is, "you are your own worst enemy". The entire film is essentially a metaphor for that; how maybe the evils and the sources of the stress and pain we deal with in our lives stem from us. We are the heroes in our story, but we are also the villains.
That's the meaning behind the ending. That's the reason why this film needed that twist where Adelaide was actually the "bad guy" the whole time. Because the way we can harm ourselves can be far worse than the ways other people can harm us. None of us are perfect, and we can be the bad guy in our own lives.
Us can also be interpreted as a metaphor for classism in our current society, with the Tethered representing the very bottom, and the people rejected by the government and society, doing whatever they can to receive equal treatment from everyone else.
The Wilson family, who we follow throughout the movie, represents the middle class. They aren't incredibly rich, but they managed to make a good life for themselves. They have a boat that breaks down from time to time, and throughout the film, they fight to maintain what they have.
And the Tyler family represents the upper class. They are a family that lives in a gorgeous home, a boat that works VERY well, and every simple task can be done for them with their interactive home device, Ophelia. They aren't affected when the power goes out because they can afford a backup generator.
Early in the movie, Daisy even admits she got a bit of plastic surgery to keep looking as beautiful as she could. This family has everything, and that's why they are killed by their doppelgängers so fast. They have very little to fight for, given that they live a privileged life completely opposite from those of the Tethered.
This film also has a lot to say about what the U.S. is as a country. When I first Googled "Us" to find information about this movie, all I could find was information about the U.S.. That's, of course, because "Us" is essentially the same as "U.S.".
What this film may also be trying to say is how poorly the U.S. treats those who we perceive to be the OTHER, or in this case, the Tethered. We reject them from society, we fear them, and we kill them. And at the end, Red says she wanted the world to know that the Tethered were "humans too".
And at the end of the day, the undocumented immigrants, the Muslims, and everyone that the United States tends to be a bit touchy with—they're all just like us. They're humans, and in the case of this film and the twist, the enemy we feared the whole time was actually the human and the hero we cheered on in the film was a member of the Tethered.
This film blurs the line between who's "good" and who's "evil", suggesting that there may not really be any definitive "good" or "evil". The U.S. may not always be the "good guys" and other countries, including people from those countries aren't just the "bad guys".
Adelaide herself may be representative of the U.S. as well. She was once a member of the Tethered, and that's a secret that she buries so that she can continue to appear to be the "good guy".
Similarly, the U.S. and Americans have done some atrocious acts in the past. Our country is built on stolen Native American land, enslaved black people, and oppressed them for decades. Yet, we have painted an image of ourselves as noble American warriors. But we aren't just the good guys. We have a past of committing terrible acts on innocent others.
Another way of seeing this film is that all three families represent the U.S. The Tyler family represents the U.S. not putting up a fight to stop certain global issues, the Wilson family (the heroes) represents the U.S. sticking together and fighting global issues despite an unpleasant history, and the Tethered represent the worst of us.
The members of the Tethered, including Tethered Adelaide, commit murder throughout the film. They can represent both the oppressor and the oppressed. And that is the beauty of Us.
I believe that Us is a masterpiece. I don't use that word lightly, either. I think it's a genuine masterpiece. This film is much more than just a horror movie with a good story. There are so many layers to this film that can be peeled back and interpreted in a multitude of different ways.
And I think it's truly special when we have a film that can get people talking. This isn't the kind of movie where you watch it, you shrug, and forget about it a few days later.
This is a movie that forces you to think. Its mysteries and symbolism get inside your head.
So it kind of threw me off when I saw that it received a bit of a mixed, polarizing reception amongst audience members, with many complaining that the twist was obvious, it wasn't that scary, and the ending and the whole film "didn't make sense".
Those just aren't fair criticisms. If you saw the twist coming, great. I didn't. And neither did many others. It doesn't say anything objective about the film itself.
You didn't think this movie was that scary? Fine. Neither did I. But I still absolutely love this film because it's very clear that scaring the audience is not the only thing Peele was trying to accomplish. There is so much behind every single writing choice and directing choice in this film that it's way more than an average, run-of-the-mill horror flick.
And if you didn't think this movie made any sense, then...well, please see the above "Red and Adelaide" section where I summarized everything and how it all DOES make sense.
This movie is essentially a game of connect the dots. Peele is gonna give you the dots, but it's your job to connect them. Peele leaves a lot unexplained and he leaves a lot of ambiguity because it's up to us, as the audience, to decide how certain things worked.
At the end of the film, Red explains quite a lot about the backstory of the Tethered. While it does feel like a bit of an exposition dump, it doesn't answer every question that we have. This movie is made to get people to have conversations about it. It allows us to talk about all of its different meanings and explain certain aspects.
I've heard many say Get Out was a better film. I don't like drawing that kind of comparison because Get Out and Us are two very different films intended to get us to react differently. Get Out was supposed to make us go, "Yes! Kill those evil white people!" And Us was supposed to make us go, "Whoa. WHOA. WHAT?!"
They're different movies. And personally, Us is the movie that made me think more. I honestly couldn't get any sleep because I was always trying to solve the mysteries that were left unsolved during this film.
And when a movie can stick with you—when a movie can get you to have conversations about it, taking about the deeper meaning behind it all and you can't even SLEEP because you can't stop thinking about it, THAT is the sign of a damn good movie.
Because if every single little mystery and everything about the plot was completely resolved by the end of it, this film likely would have been a lot more boring and it wouldn't have tread any new ground in horror territory. Instead, this movie gives US the puzzle pieces and tells us to create a picture.
As someone with experience, I know that writing a movie is not easy. Even the worst screenplays ever written had to have taken some thought and time. Peele wrote an excellent screenplay filled to the top with subtext and directed it to perfection.
I just think it's truly special when a filmmaker trusts their audience. I love how Peele gave us numerous ways to interpret the ending, the twist, the symbolism, and the story. This movie can get people talking and theorizing. And that makes this a truly great film.
I don't give many movies a 10/10. But this one absolutely deserves it. I'm not even exaggerating; I think a generation or two from now, people will look back upon Us as The Shining of our generation.
This is, in my opinion, one of the best films ever put to the screen, and I love it more the more I think about it. I think the reason why not everyone likes this film is because not everyone has thought about it as extensively as I have along with many others.
Us evokes the power of cinema and when every single little detail of this movie is analyzed, then everything makes perfect sense. And that is the beauty of Us.