Before Lupita Nyong’o threw herself into her most challenging role — or roles — to date in Jordan Peele’s Us, the filmmaker gave her 10 movies to prepare her to play the lead, Adelaide Wilson, and her evil shadow doppelgänger, Red.
Us, which just smashed box office records to become the biggest opening for an original horror movie this weekend, follows the Wilson family as their idyllic beach vacation is interrupted by shadowy figures that turn out to be the “shadow” versions of themselves.
If you want to get into the same mindset as Nyong’o, here are the movies that Peele assigned to her for homework — and curiously, you may see some subtle and not-so-subtle homages in Us:
Dead Again – In 1949, Roman Strauss, accused of his wife Margaret’s murder, is sentenced to death. Come 40 years later, a detective meets a woman with amnesia and both happen to look identical to the long-gone Strauss couple… (and keep your eyes Peele-d for that scissor imagery).
The Shining – All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy indeed… and Peele has made no secret of how important this film is to him. Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic adapted from Stephen King’s book of the same name is centered on recovering alcoholic and writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), who becomes the caretaker of an isolated hotel, taking his family along with him. His young son Danny has ‘the shining,’ an ability to see the hotel’s haunted, terrifying past… and Jack finds himself lured by spirits unknown (and let’s not forget the creepy hall twins).
The Babadook – A frightening figure from a children’s book haunts a young boy and his mother, making them face their worst fears.
It Follows – A vicious entity stalks its prey and the only way the hunted can escape its clutches is to have sex with another person, so that the entity stalks them instead. But victims be aware… the entity stalks in reverse order, so if it kills the person you passed it onto, it will come back to hunt you.
A Tale of Two Sisters – South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon spins a warped tale of two sisters living in the countryside, suspicious of their father’s new wife, and haunted by terrifying visions of their late mother.
The Birds – This 1963 Hitchcockian nightmare is a staple of every horror maestro’s collection and a cinematic classic. For those newly initiated, Tippi Hedren stars as Melanie, a stunning blonde who finds herself subjected to a growing number of vicious bird attacks. Hedren’s journey to portray Melanie, and the lengths that Alfred Hitchcock went to elicit true fear out of her, is a movie-worthy tale in itself (see: HBO’s 2012 movie The Girl, starring Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock).
Funny Games (1997) – Don’t let the title fool you: Michael Haneke’s dark psychological thriller delves into the depths of depravity as two men hold a family hostage, forcing them to play their sadistic games in this unsettling home invasion thriller. Haneke remade his film with an American cast in 2007.
Martyrs – A young girl escapes a slaughterhouse where she has been held by unknown assailants and abused for a long period. She is placed in an orphanage where she befriends another girl, who helps her as she suffers frightening visions and nightmares of a horrifying woman. Without giving much away, the film delves into an underground world of secret chambers and the people who dwell there have sinister ideas.
Let the Right One In – This dark Swedish tale, based on the novel of the same name, explores the friendship between a bullied young boy and a young vampire girl.
The Sixth Sense – M. Night Shyamalan proved to be the master of the twist with this 1999 supernatural thriller about a haunted young boy who is sent to therapy because he “sees dead people.” His therapist goes to great lengths to help the boy deal with his visions … but all is not what it seems. Just like Peele’s Us.