Horror frequently draws on aesthetic disruption. The sinister undermining of the ordinary is one of its most reliable, effective and layered tropes: clowns are not the playmates of the circus, but the casing around a carnivorous child-snatcher; the Mayday parade is not a blossom-strewn celebration of spring but a floral front for human sacrifice; don’t even get started on the Catholic church. In Us (2019), director Jordan Peele takes this one step further and offers us the mundane and its uncanny reflection side by side. The scary monsters are doppelgangers of ordinary people, living abject, gruesome lives underground, tethered to their mundane counterparts by some mysterious but inexorable force. Peele toys exquisitely with aesthetic disruption in the climactic fight scene, fixing on two art forms with such recognisable and celebrated aesthetics that their fearful remix is already ominous: hip hop music and balletic dance.
In Us, Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family flee a gang of the murderous doppelgangers, who have been killing their real-world counterparts across the town. She eventually tracks her own doppelganger – named Red – to an abandoned fairground, all the while assailed by traumatic but incomplete childhood memories of this very place. Beneath the fairground is a crude double of the world above: doppelganger hell. She confronts Red in a subterranean schoolroom.