Screen Time

The people who haunt us

Jordan Peele’s new horror film reveals the pasts we are all tethered to.

Jordan Peele understands that sometimes being terrified is truly delightful, and sometimes what delights us is truly terrifying. His fantastic new movie Us moves with speed and grace from high suspense to horrifying fright to deadpan humor, never taking the horror genre so seriously it forgets to have fun with it.

But Peele also revels in the genre’s capacity to literalize our worst fears and force us to face our demons by giving them bodies. In his directorial debut Get Out (2017), old rich white people kidnap and auction off young healthy black bodies to inhabit via brain transplants, forcing the consciousness of the black person into a waking sublimation called the “sunken place.” White fear and fetishization of black bodies are the text and subtext of the horror.

In Us race is never mentioned explicitly, although it is an obvious context. Peele is satirizing something more ambitious: the ideals of human personhood that ground our democracy.