Going into a horror movie, the expectation is to mutter quietly while nervously awaiting the scares, to scream and jump in your seat, to partially cover your eyes whenever there's suspenseful silence, and to basically get to the point where you almost regret ever going into the theater in the first place. But laughter also plays a huge part of the hair-raising entertainment we subject ourselves to — whether it's laughing at ourselves and our friends as we all jolt up and curse in surprise, or laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation the characters have gotten themselves into. The funniest moments in Us come from the movie's witty self-awareness, however.
But you know from his debut film Get Out, writer and director Jordan Peele has a different way of making us laugh. He likes to play with the genre by injecting very intentional humor — a kind of self-aware social commentary — into his work. (He is, after all, one of the great comedians of our time.) And he's continuing to show off his comedic chops in his new movie, as terrifying as it also is. Spoilers ahead!
Us is the story of Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o) and her family, as their vacation goes awry when their red jumpsuit-wearing, golden shears-carrying clones — who call themselves the "Tethered" — rise up from the underground and try to kill them. From this premise, and the trailers, you could have already guessed that this movie is most definitely scarier than Get Out. But for all its serious scares and mind games, Us also has some pretty icon, hilarious moments.
1. Gabe Wilson & His Dad Jokes
The recurring comic relief throughout the movie comes courtesy of Winston Duke's character, Gabe Wilson. Gabe is a goofy dad who loves to tell cheesy jokes that don't really land with his kids. And while he's tall and towering, all this softie cares about is his boat and his family.
2 .The "Craw Daddy"
The "Craw Daddy" is the tiny, old, janky boat Gabe's absolutely crazy about despite its many flaws, and that his family thinks is a joke. Jokes about the dinghy are sprinkled throughout the movie. Even in the very tense moment when their Tethered counterparts corner them, Gabe assumes it's the boat they want, to which his daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) responds, "Nobody wants the boat, dad."
3. The "Magic Room"
Adelaide is more quiet and brooding, while her husband is a chatty, sociable joker. The scene that encapsulates their relationship dynamic is when Adie and Gabe are alone in their bedroom (which he likes to call the "magic room"). She tries to talk to him about her traumatic childhood experience seeing her doppelgänger in a carnival fun house, but Gabe attempts to seduce her, suggesting that maybe sex will take her mind off things.
4. "What kind of white sh*t?"
Jordan Peele's thrillers put people of color at the center of their stories, and the movies themselves are very aware of it. For the longest time white people have been at the center of many narratives — especially horror, which has historically alienated people of color. So when Gabe realizes the horror they're about to face upon confronting the Tethered family in their driveway, he says, "What kind of white sh*t?"
5. The Tylers
Kitty Tyler (Elisabeth Moss) and her husband Josh (Tim Heidecker) despise each other so much and are always at each others throats. During an unpleasant exchange at the beach, Kitty asks Josh for a drink, and expecting a "thank you," he condescendingly asks, "What do we say?" Of course, she isn't having it and replies, "I hate you."
Peele also made sure to turn the "black people die first in horror movies" trope on its head by making the Tylers an easy kill for their respective Tethered counterparts.
6. That "F*ck Tha Police" Moment
After the anti-Tylers successfully slay Josh, and twins Becca and Lindsey, Kitty is still strong enough to say a few words. She tells their home's virtual assistant, Ophelia, to "call the police." But, like many of our own virtual assistants, Ophelia mishears, instead proceeding to play the hip-hop classic "F*ck Tha Police."
7. The Gen Z Kids
The film doesn't pass up an opportunity to make fun of just how clueless Gen Z'ers are about the '80s and '90s culture their parents love. When Gabe references Micronauts and Home Alone while trying to figure out how to outrun the Tethered, both Zora and Jason (Evan Alex) have no idea what he's talking about.
8. The Kill Count
At a certain point the whole family gets desensitized to the violence they have to do. It becomes a fact of their world — a game for them, even. While arguing about who gets to drive the car, Zora, Jason, Gabe, and Adi all compare their "kill count" a.k.a. how many Tethered each of them have dispatched.
9. "What is this? Some kind of f*cked up performance art?"
One of the most eerie characteristics of the Tethered is that they like to hold hands while standing together. Beyond just the anti-Wilsons, all the Tethered were working together to form a line, holding hands, going across the country. This is a reference to something young Adelaide (Madison Curry) saw growing up: a commercial for Hands Across America, which was a 1986 American benefit campaign that sought to fight hunger and homelessness, and help those in poverty.
When Gabe sees the long line of red jumpsuits, he says, "What is this? Some kind of f*cked up performance art?" Sort of!
Not all of these moments may have made you laugh out loud, like Get Out did. But its subversions of the genre, subtle quips, and smart lines are what make Us a winner.