I’m not a person who you’d call a “movie person.” I watch, like, one new movie a year unless you count Marvel movies, which many of you don’t. It’s okay. I understand the arguments against them, the constant churn of capitalist-driven military-propagandist stories that are devouring all expressions of art, etc etc.
Which is why I’m surprised to find myself in the middle of a horror movie binge, catching up on a bunch of art-houses from the past few years. The years immediately preceding the pandemic have an amazing output that I had no idea about beyond the occasional meme, as is the Millenial experience I guess, what with being bombarded with so much pop culture that there’s barely anything leaving a lasting mark. It’s sad, is what it is. Not just because, of course, the misery we’re trapped in, but all this is making us miss so many good human stories.
Us, I say, when I mean me. Idk, maybe my Hereditary is your something else.
Yeah, this is the third place where I want to talk about Hereditary, or what it taught me about storytelling. The frankness of emotions which it builds upon. And here’s the thing, every time I learn something about storytelling that completely rocks my world, it is always down to emotions. Toni Collette and Alex Wolff delivered such exquisite, visceral performances that I, as an emotion whore, have been thinking over and over again about that one ants nightmare scene for two days now.
It’s an excellent scene, where Toni Collette sleepwalks to her son’s room, and imagines his corpse being devoured by black ants, much like how her now-dead daughter’s head was found at the site of the accident that sets off everything. The desperation and horror that one scene invokes in this character, as a mother, as a human being, as someone deep in the clutches of all her fears at once. There’s no punches pulled, no half-done contorted tears that seem melodramatic. It’s this mother’s bare face, frozen, a soul-deep depiction of the absolute terror that we can never really know because when you go through it, you’re incapable of understanding it, and the minute you step even an inch away, your mind will already compartmentalize it so you don’t keep reliving that emotion and torture yourself. To have that kind of wound displayed on screen, in a story as dread-soaked as this, is a gift. It teaches you what a human is capable of feeling, in the worst of our despair, what you can pull out of the world, out of yourself, bring to page/screen, and have someone else sit up and say, Oh my God, that is a real emotion.
And I think this one thing, repeatedly, is what makes a good story. Forget about the decoration of plot and structure and arcs and what not. Find that human emotion, go all in, and we’ll always have something to say. Perhaps an old emotion made new, perhaps an entirely new one that we have no word for yet but in excavating ourselves, we find it. Who knows?
Anyway, you should watch this, if you haven’t.