Before he had even finished making Get Out, his Oscar®-winning 2017 blockbuster that delved deep into issues of race and privilege in America, writer/director/producer Jordan Peele was already developing the idea for a new film, Us, that promised to be even more terrifying, and just as psychologically incisive, as the one he was making at the time.
Doppelgängers, or mysterious doubles of living people, are almost as old as storytelling itself. They appear in almost all folklore and mythology, a physical manifestation of a spiritual double that shares the memories, experiences and feelings of its living counterpart. These early narrative archetypes were the progenitors of so-called “evil twin” characters that have appeared in literature throughout history.
With few exceptions, it’s seldom a good sign when doppelgängers pop up in a story. “Doppelgängers have always been a source of fear,” Peele says. “It’s connected to your sense of mortality, I think. You can’t both exist, so one of you has to go. Throughout mythology, doppelgängers often represent bad omens or are a foreshadowing of one’s death. I wanted to pinpoint, and then develop the story, from that primal fear.”
That quest to pinpoint our root fears, and what they might represent, led Peele to some provocative places that not only plumbed the depths of the human psyche, but also America’s national identity. “I tend to draw inspiration from my own fear,” Peele says. “At some point I ask myself, ‘What’s the scariest thing for me, personally?’ In this case it was the idea of seeing myself. And then I think about what that’s really about, about why seeing yourself is so scary. No one really wants to look at their faults, their guilt, their demons. We all want to look elsewhere.” That inclination to project our own fears, anxieties and anger outward is also an endemic part of American culture. “This country, and how this country looks at the world, we have a fear of the outsider,” Peele says. “It’s built into the fear of everything from terrorism to immigration. One of the great core horror films that carried a powerful social message is George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. That movie was about race even though they don’t really talk about race in the film. I wanted to follow that approach with this movie.”
In Philippine cinemas March 20, Us is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.