This is the film that restored my faith in American cinema. Previously, I felt one had to watch a foreign flick for a good scare. Ari Aster is my favorite writer/director, the only American making shocking films right now. And this film WILL scare you. Also important is Toni Collette, who gives a lights-out performance, as always, just intense as can be. (The lead actress from The United States of Tara.)
Miniature model artist Annie Graham (Collette) has lost her weird, eerie mother, Ellen (Kathleen Chalfant). At the funeral, Annie is surprised by how many people show up, a staggering amount, and she’s never met any of them. When Ellen’s grave is desecrated, Annie sees her ghost.
Wanting her strange-and-creepy thirteen-year-old daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), to enjoy her life, she manipulates her sixteen-year-old son, Peter (Alex Wolff), to take her along to a party he’s going to. Problem is, Charlie’s allergic to certain foods, and when she eats cake with nuts, she goes full-tilt into anaphylactic shock. Peter then rushes her to the hospital, but his driving’s erratic, and Charlie, not being able to breathe, sticks her head out the window for fresh air . . . and her head’s decapitated by a telephone pole.
Things go downhill from there.
At a grief-support group, Annie meets an older woman named Joan (Ann Dowd), who lost a son. At first, the friendship seems innocuous, but after a beat Joan shows Annie how to conjure up the departed loved one, and when you hear that creepy music and things start moving seemingly by themselves, you know you’re in trouble. In fact, I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw Charlie, who’s really strange looking, and uses bird’s heads for her action figures.
From then on, you are not safe. If the scenes that follow don’t freak you out, you’re probably dead.
Why is Joan trying to exorcise Peter from his own body? Why does Charlie persist in being alive? Where did all those people at the funeral come from?
The scares amp-up until you think you can’t take it. I mean, ghosts being naked when they’re dead, I don’t need to see that!
And human spirits aren’t the biggest worry. Annie’s mother Ellen was a demon-worshipper, and those people at the funeral are her coven.
I highly recommend this one to those who think they can’t be scared by a film . . . and especially those that can.
A.R. Braun will also be featured on our anthology Mad Men, available for presale now.