This article contains major spoilers for Us, in theaters now.
When Universal Pictures rebooted The Mummy in 2017, the studio was dead-set on kicking off a horror-driven series of interconnecting films similar to the superhero-focused Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dubbed the Dark Universe, the continuity would involve Luke Evans' Dracula from 2014's Dracula Untold, Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, Javier Bardem as the Frankenstein Monster, and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man.
However, despite its attempt to harness the star power of Tom Cruise, The Mummy failed and the Dark Universe fell apart, with the only survivor being The Invisible Man reboot, and even that's now being planned as a standalone film. But despite the studios' initial shared universe plans coming to such a grinding halt, Universal may still get a chance to craft one via the haunting realm created by Jordan Peele's Us.
Jordan Peele's sophomore horror film is taking the box office by storm, as the writer/director's second flick recreates the chilling, unsettling aura of horror he cultivated in the highly-acclaimed Get Out. The story of the Wilson family coming under attack from weapon-wielding doppelgängers in red coveralls starts with the assumption that these are supernatural entities, but flips that on its head when it reveals they're actually clones from a failed government experiment designed to replace humanity as part of a horrific population control scheme. The copies live beneath the streets and call themselves the Tethered, and it's these Morlock-esque beings that pave the way for a series of Tethered-Verse films.
Peele has gone on the record stating he has a long mythology and overall history about the Tethered he'd like to explore, which provides Universal the opportunity to expand on this big revelation. There's the option of following the Wilsons as they try to find haven in an America that's been overrun by these bloodthirsty clones, a unique twist on the classic zombie genre. It's an enticing option given that we learn the star of the movie, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), is actually one of the Tethered who was sent above to infiltrate mankind, conditioned to fool people that she was human. Her son, Jason (Evan Alex) learns her secret in the finale, but doesn't say a word as he doesn't want to break his family's hearts. A sequel exploring how they fare in the wake of Us could be a genuinely compelling story, one of a member of the Tethered turning on her own kind so she can help rebuild a human paradise.
But this Tethered-Verse doesn't necessarily have to stick to the Wilsons. Universal could follow the Cloverfield franchise's model, which went from the 2008 movie about a giant monster to 2016's 10 Cloverfield Lane, a film focused on humanity's breaking psyche and an alien invasion, and The Cloverfield Paradox, which detailed space-time and alternate dimensions. The Tethered-Verse is more grounded, yes, but the success of the Cloverfield films illustrate how you can explore different genres within the same cinematic universe.
New entries into the franchise could also look at other families who experienced attacks from their clones during the height of the invasion, whether at the same time, before or after the Wilson debacle. The focus can shift away from the suburbs and beaches of California, and look at other parts of America, not just focusing on upper-class areas but the lower-class ones as they, too, devolve into the new post-apocalyptic society.
Ultimately, Us creates a blank canvas for a variety of stories to be told. The universe Peele created is a super-rich concept that melds horror and sci-fi seamlessly, allowing possible sequels or spinoffs multiple avenues to explore without worrying about straying too far from the core concept. Future films could look into this particular experiment, its history, how it was carried out and what eventually led to its failure. And along the way, Peele could perhaps even work in some of the classic monster stories Universal was previously eyeing, modifying them to fit the Tethered's reality.
In theaters now, Us is written, directed and produced by Jordan Peele. The film stars Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Anna Diop, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Kara Hayward, Tim Heidecker and Shahadi Wright Joseph.