This article contains major spoilers for Us, in theaters now.
Us, Jordan Peele's highly anticipated follow-up to the Oscar-winning Get Out, is essentially a monster movie. The film's fresh contribution to Universal's movie monster legacy comes in the form of the Tethered, mysterious doppelgangers of ordinary Americans who are ready to take over the surface after years of living underground. Like the classic Universal monsters, the Tethered will frighten audiences, yet beneath their uncanny horror, they're weirdly sympathetic.
The film focuses on a family of four who are being hunted by their doppelgangers. Our sympathies naturally lie with the hunted, rather than the hunters. The Tethered are frightening in the relentlessness of their pursuit, and the actors, all doing double duty, relish the little touches that make their Tethered characters just ever so wrong.
Abraham, the double of the father, Gabe (Winston Duke), communicates only in grunts and bouts of violence. Umbrae, the double of the daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright-Joseph), never stops smiling. Pluto, the double of the son, Jason (Evan Alex), is the most dramatically, monstrously "othered," masked and scarred with the movements of a wild animal.
At the center of the film are Lupita N'yongo's characters, known as Adelaide and Red. Adelaide suffered serious PTSD after encountering her doppelganger as a child. Red is the leader of the Tethered, and the only one among them with the ability to speak, albeit in a wheezing, scratched voice. It is Red who explains just who exactly the Tethered are and what they want.
When first confronting Adelaide's family, Red makes clear the jist of the scenario: The Tethered are fellow "Americans" who've spent their lives in darkness, chained up and living off rabbit meat, and they want what their doubles have. Later in the movie, we get more explanation as to how the Tethered came to be. They're the result of a science experiment that could clone human bodies but couldn't do the same with souls. The Tethered aren't merely soulless hommunculi, though. They share part of a soul with their paired human.
Whatever conspiracy that created them intended to use the Tethered to control the humans, but the experiment backfired and went in the opposite direction, leaving the Tethered doomed to forever repeat the movements of the humans above. That changed when Red broke free and began to plot her invasion of the surface.
Knowing the extent of their suffering makes the Tethered at least somewhat sympathetic, but still, aren't they monsters, not even possessing full souls? Even when we know that the monsters are "us," we still want to distance ourselves from them. Such distancing becomes impossible once the movie's final twist is revealed. If you've somehow been reading this far without seeing the movie, please go see it -- you do not want the following spoiled for you.