All summer long, I’ve had people breathlessly tell me, “You need to see this movie.”
I’ve been down this road before. It was called Hereditary, Ari Aster’s last film.
I debated never watching this film, but then I reasoned that as much as I detested It Follows, I loved Under the Silver Lake.
Maybe Aster would hit paydirt in this one. After all, I love folk horror films like The Wicker Man and Blood On Satan’s Claw. How bad could it be?
Dani Ardor is dealing with a lot. Her sister has killed her parents and then herself. This has also pushed her already failing relationship with her boyfriend Christian. Somehow, they stay together the whole way to summer, when she learns that his Swedish friend Pelle is going home to his commune family for a once in every ninety years ritual and is taking Christian and his friends Mark and Josh.
Christian had no intention of telling her about the trip. In fact, his friends want them to break up. But then she’s there in Halsingland along with them as they trip out and settle in. Hours later, two of the elders leap off a rock to their deaths, but when the male doesn’t die, the others smash his head with a rock.
The elder Siv explains that this is how life goes here in Harga, with every member dying in the same way at the age of 72. This would also be the point where anyone sane would get out.
Two other guests, Simon and Connie, try to leave but miscommunication separates them. And to top things off, Christian decides to steal Josh’s thesis on the Harga. That’s when we learn that the commune’ runic religion is based on an oracle who is conceived every few years via incest.
Oh, where do we go from here? Mark pees on a tree and gets skinned alive. Josh tries to take photos and gets hit with a mallet. Dani takes more drugs and dances around a maypole whole her boyfriend eats pubic hair before impregnating another girl while the rest of the females all watch and push his butt in deeper. Yes, it may have taken Quentin Tarantino a few films before we all realized he has a foot fetish, but Ari Aster took all of one film and a bit of this one to show us that his go-to horror is obese and aged nudity.
After finding Christian and Maja having sex, Dani has started screaming and all of the women turn it into a song. I laughed the kind of mad guffaw that Max Cady only reserved for classics like Problem Child. Somehow, this film, much like the last one that Aster essayed, has descended from horror into comedy through no fault of its own.
If I told you that the cult members all disembowel a bear and shove Christian into it — get it, his name is Christian and he’s being sacrificed? — would you believe me? Well, you better, because that’s exactly the kind of ridiculous ending this movie has. Can you believe that some people were upset by this and how intense it supposedly got? Then why was I holding my sides and struggling to breathe as I chuckled with the kind of volume that I had once only thought possible in my wildest dreams?
This film is a joke, told with false significance and no small fury, all screaming and yelling and singing and wishing and praying and hoping that someone finds it significant and important and worthy of notice. In short, it is everything that is 2019 — a country that asks for prayers on social media one day and shoots one another in the face the next. A sad moron screaming, “Notice me.”
Somehow, thirty minutes of footage was cut from this movie before release. I have no idea how this is possible, as it felt so ponderous that I fear that it’s being over is just a surprise ending and the truth is I will soon wake up and still have forty minutes left to watch. It’s the kind of movie that The Lord of the Rings films would tell to wrap it up.
There are no surprises. I mean, the opening mural literally tells you everything that will happen in the film. And another piece of art shows a woman falling in love with a man, placing flowers under his pillow and then hiding her pubic hair in his food. This is exactly what Maja does with Christian.
There is all the subtlety of a sledgehammer in this film. Every single story beat is so hammered home — yes, that’s a horrible pun but this movie in no way makes me want to try — that you become wistful for the simple days of Toni Collette flying around without her head.
The funniest thing about this movie is that it sees the Nicholas Cage The Wicker Man as more of an inspiration than the original. That might be all you need to know about this utter turd in the punchbowl.