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Disturbing Moments From Us That Still Haunt Us Today

As audiences have come to find out, stepping into a Jordan Peele film requires buckling up for some serious scares. Somehow finding a way to incorporate humor, heart, and horror, Peele ensures his films will stick with you long after watching. And while you may be traumatized along the way, the characters, compelling stories, and thematic depth in Peele's films keep audiences coming back for more.

His second feature film, "Us," premiered in 2019 and asked audiences to consider what would happen if they found out there was a sinister version of them living underground. Specifically, the film follows the Wilson family on their beach vacation which quickly turns into a game of survival. Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), Gabe (Winston Duke), and their two kids Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) must find a way to beat their doppelgängers before they're all killed.

Overall, the film is nothing short of disturbing. The themes of trauma, classism, society, and the way the U.S. works as a whole, all lie beneath this distinctive horror piece that both terrifies you in the moment and makes you ponder for a long time afterward. There is undoubtedly a lot to unpack in this film, but for those who appreciate the horror elements of "Us" the most, here are the 13 most disturbing moments from the film that are still haunting audiences today.

Adelaide's doppelgänger isn't her reflection

Young Adelaide (Madison Curry) — or "Addy" as she is known — is a really compelling character. We first meet her as this adorable child on vacation with complicated parents and watch her excitement at the boardwalk amusements. However, when she wanders off on her own, it's clear there's a shift in the energy, and something bad is going to happen. We see her walk away from the boardwalk and onto the beach, where she notices the house of mirrors. It immediately starts to downpour, and Addy takes shelter inside.

As she wanders through, Addy jumps at a few spooky attractions within the house, but mostly just sees her own reflection and looks for a way out. However, one mirror looks different than the others. Addy doesn't see her reflection as she would expect, and instead sees herself turned around so she's looking at her own back. She becomes incredibly scared and traumatized by what she has seen, but the audience is left to wonder what happens to her there, as it immediately transitions to the opening credits. Mirrors are often used to great effect in horror films, and this is another compelling example. Most people can agree that looking in a mirror and seeing anything other than your reflection is a disturbing thought, and this opening scene from "Us" perfectly sets the thematic tone for the rest of the film.

The opening credits

Right off the bat, Jordan Peele grabs the audience's attention and simultaneously ignites fear. The opening credits of the film start with a close-up shot of a bunny and a song from the film's soundtrack called "Anthem." The disturbing, march-like song features a young-sounding choir singing in the most ominous way imaginable. As the song progresses, the camera zooms out to reveal the bunny is in a cage. While the credits continue to roll, the camera zooms out further, revealing more bunnies in more cages. With more than 50 caged bunnies, we also see that the room has classroom desks — adding an extra layer of intrigue.

This immediately sets the tone for the rest of the film, and you know by watching this that you'll feel uneasy and on edge until the final credits roll. In an interview with Slate, soundtrack composer Michael Abels said he "wanted "Anthem" to sound like an evil march. Like you knew that someone with bad intentions was coming." He explains that, in keeping with Peele's love of taking innocent things and making them scary, the children's voices were the perfect fit. He said, of the lyrics being nonsensical, "You're forced to listen with your emotions and your instincts rather than your intellect."

There's a family in our driveway

Those who didn't watch the trailer for the film would have had no idea what was coming. After arriving back at their summer house following a long day with friends at the beach, Adelaide's anxiety starts to get visibly worse. She tries to talk to Gabe about the horrible feeling she has, but he just tries to make light of it in an attempt to make her feel better. However, when the power goes out and Addy starts to panic, her family begins to take her claim a bit more seriously.

However, the real terror comes from the way Jason so calmly tells his parents: "There's a family in our driveway." Gabe is skeptical, but upon inspection, finds that Jason is telling the truth. The first shot of the doppelgängers in the driveway is so haunting. The way they are backlit by the street light, standing so still, and holding hands, all make them so incredibly threatening. It's one of many popular images from the film, but it's also one that sticks with you in a terrifying way.

The doppelgängers surround the house

You would think that the image of four people ominously standing in the Wilson's driveway would be terror enough. However, the situation becomes worse when — after Gabe's taunting and threats don't work — the people in the driveway start to take action. With three clicks from Red, the family breaks their formation and moves in four different directions to infiltrate the house. Pluto crawls to the right of the house, Umbrae runs to the left, Abraham charges toward Gabe, and Red stands her ground.

From there, each doppelgänger finds a way to get into the house, and the terror is truly brought home for the Wilson family. It's not only terrifying to see the family standing in the driveway, so ready to cause harm, but it's even more disturbing to see them so quickly take action — and in such a coordinated manner that demonstrates their evil intentions. The fact they can communicate without words — prompted into action by a mere click from their matriarch — makes it even more chilling.

Gabe's knee is smashed

Is there anything worse in a horror film than someone getting their leg, ankle, or knee harmed — just as they need to run away? Maybe, but it is definitely near the top of the list of the most anxiety-inducing possible events. Gabe is the largest member of the family and the one who prepares to defend them from harm. While he might've been able to take on the other tethered family members, he runs into problems when he tries to subdue his doppelgänger, Abraham, with a baseball bat. When Abraham steals the bat, he smashes Gabe's knee in retaliation, rendering him incapable of walking, let alone running away.

What causes the most fear in this situation is the fact that the tethered family is so prepared for this encounter and so deeply rooted in the Wilson's mindsets that Abraham can second-guess Gabe's movements. He knows he needs to hurt Gabe so that he is unable to take on the rest of the tethered, and he knows exactly where to hit him to cause damage. Having any part of your leg damaged in a situation that requires running away from harm is brutal, but it becomes even worse when Abraham drags Gabe through the broken glass on the floor. It's not just disturbing, but an extremely upsetting scene in the film.

Red tells the Wilsons their story

Once the tethered family successfully breaks into the Wilson's summer house, all bets are off, and there's no telling what might happen next. Will the Wilsons make it out alive? Why is the tethered family there? That last question is quickly answered by Red — Adelaide's doppelgänger and the clear leader of the tethered family. When Adelaide is handcuffed to the table, Gabe is subdued, and the children are sitting down, Red starts to explain why her family is there. She tells Adelaide how she has lived in her shadow, explaining what the tethered are and that she has been forced to marry and painfully birth children, based on the choices Adelaide made in her life.

But then, Red explains that she changed her mindset toward all the resentment she felt for Adelaide and realized she was being tested by God. Gabe, still in denial, interrupts Red's speech to ask what they are, and Red responds by saying, "We're Americans." The whole monologue and exchange between Red and the Wilson family are so disturbing, but particularly Nyong'o's acting as both Red and Adelaide is what sticks with you. Her raspy voice for Red is enough to stop anyone in their tracks and cause fear. But that combined with the way she explains what they are and the tense feeling of not knowing what comes next makes the entire scene memorably disturbing.

Kitty's doppelgänger in the mirror

At first, the audience is left to wonder if the Wilsons are the only people with doppelgängers. Though there aren't many other characters aside from the Wilsons, we are introduced to another family: the Tylers. Kitty (Elizabeth Moss), Josh (Tim Heidecker), and their twin daughters (Cali and Noelle Sheldon) are friends with Adelaide's family and they meet up at the beach earlier in the film. Following the emergence of the tethered family that breaks into the Wilson house, it is revealed that the Tylers also have their own doppelgängers, and the whole family is massacred by them.

Kitty's tether, Dahlia, has a bit of extra time to explore the Tyler house while the Wilsons seek out the original family's help. Dahlia holds Adelaide hostage, and while doing so examines herself in the mirror. The most disturbing moment comes when Dahlia takes her scissors and pushes them as close to her temple as possible — holding back from stabbing herself. As she struggles, she smiles a wide and chilling grin and then slowly cuts down the side of her face. Watching Dahlia put on these fake emotions while studying herself, exploring Kitty's makeup, and eventually mutilating her own face is more than enough to send shivers down your spine. This scene is special, though, because as horrifying as it is, it's also incredibly sad — knowing about how the tethered have lived and the lives they could watch but were never afforded.

Umbrae's death

The death of Umbrae is a really traumatizing event in the film — particularly for Adelaide. After the Wilsons survive the tethered Tylers, they take their car and try to drive to get help. Zora starts driving and her tethered, Umbrae, appears before them — ready to kill. When Zora tries to run her over, Umbrae jumps on top of the car and starts to stab inside the sunroof in an attempt to kill the Wilsons. Zora hits the brakes, and Umbrae lands on the windshield. As Umbrae tries to stab through the windshield, Zora increases the speed until they're going too fast, and then slams on the brakes to send Umbrae flying into the woods.

Adelaide gets out of the car to make sure she's dead and finds Umbrae hanging mutilated from a tree. She still has some fight left in her and swings her scissors at Adelaide, who waits and watches as Umbrae's life drains from her, and — in a surprising twist — comforts her until she dies. Without the knowledge that Adelaide used to be a tethered, audiences can chalk it up to the fact that she feels like she is watching her daughter die because Umbrae and Zora look the same. However, with the knowledge of the film's big plot twist, Adelaide is watching one of her own die this horrible, gruesome death. It's really disturbing either way you look at it, and also unexpectedly poignant.

Pluto's death

Umbrae's death is disturbing, but Pluto's death takes the cake. When the Wilsons try to find where they should go to learn more about the plague of tethered people, they see Pluto, standing calmly and imitating Jason's fire magic trick. Behind him is a car engulfed in flames, and it almost seems like Pluto is taunting Adelaide to do something. Adelaide tries to reason with Pluto and take care of him, but he pulls his mask up and then stares directly at Jason.

Jason, using his quick thinking, realizes it's a trap and they all need to get out of the car. The trap is that Pluto is going to set their car on fire, hopefully with them. Once they're safe, Jason also sees that Pluto will mimic his movements, so he starts to back away and Pluto does the same. Jason backs Pluto right into the fire, and Pluto goes willingly. Adelaide mourns Pluto and is so disturbed to watch this little boy die in such a gruesome way, that she doesn't see the real trap — Red grabbing Jason and taking him into the tethered world. Pluto's fiery death is particularly terrifying and disturbing, not just because he is a young boy, but because of how calm he is while it is happening.

The tethered boardwalk

Toward the end of the film — while Red is telling Adelaide her plan — the audience gets a first look at what the tethered endured for their entire lives. The audience revisits the boardwalk scene from the beginning of the film with Adelaide and her parents, but they see it from the perspective of the tethered at the same time. What the audience learns is, the tethered had a good reason for wanting to escape.

They're forced to eat rabbit when their counterparts eat real food, they move in jerky, abrupt ways while humans are in cars, riding roller coasters, or even just walking, and they have no say in who they get to love — only their counterparts do. Seeing the boardwalk scene from the perspective of the tethered world is not only shocking but horrifying to watch. It's devastating and gives the audience an idea as to why the tethered sought revenge on their counterparts.

Adelaide/Red's dance

The big, final battle in the film is between Adelaide and Red. Following Pluto's death, Red kidnaps Jason and takes him to the tethered world, and Adelaide goes to save him. Jason is hidden, and Red tells Adelaide of her whole journey to get to where she is now. The two of them know only one of them will make it out alive, and so they start to fight. Because they both did ballet, the fight is shown through both their real physical fight happening in the present, and the dance Adelaide performed on stage, and Red performed underground — resulting in all the tethered people realizing that Red was special.

The audience sees both perspectives, and Peele so cleverly weaves the past, present, dance, and fight together. Seeing the dance woven in with the battle is both beautiful and incredibly disturbing. The way Red dances is horrifying, and when juxtaposed with Adelaide's graceful movements it seems even more twisted. 

Adelaide kills Red

In the intense final fight between Red and Adelaide, it looks too close to call — and as they are technically the same person, their closeness is even more apparent. Red has more strategy, but Adelaide is more scrappy, and they both put up a good fight. For a while, it looks like Red is going to succeed, but right at the last second Adelaide sends a fire poker through Red's chest. Adelaide is so relieved by her win that she turns almost barbaric, letting out guttural, primal noises. Red whistles a song to her right before dying, and Adelaide becomes feral, choking her to death with her handcuffs, revealing the truth of her tethered origins.

For the audience, this is a truly disturbing and jaw-dropping moment. We finally see Adelaide's true colors and for the first time feel uneasy that she's our protagonist. The barbaric nature of the kill is haunting and really sticks with you after watching.

Jason finds out the truth

Once Adelaide defeats Red and gets her family safely out of danger, the audience finds out the truth about her. When Adelaide saw her reflection in the house of mirrors, it actually was her tethered self. Red kidnapped the real Adelaide and left her down in the tethered world, while Red emerged from the house of mirrors and assumed Adelaide's identity. 

It's been Adelaide's mission to hide her true identity, and she has done so all this time. However, after Jason sees her so barbarically kill Red, he becomes very skeptical about his mother's integrity. From the exchanged look the two share at the end of the film, it's clear that Jason knows his mother used to be one of the tethered. Though Jason just puts his mask on and doesn't say anything to the rest of the family, it leaves the audience wondering what comes next for them and if Jason or Adelaide will ever share the truth. It's upsetting for Jason to find this out, and it's even more disturbing to the audience to have this open ending where it's up to us to interpret what this means for the Wilson family. It's a scene that definitely sticks with you after the credits finish rolling.