Following a family tragedy, a female student agrees to go on a trip to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends to attend a religious festival at a secluded commune. However once there she begins to witness the community’s unusual ceremonies and suspect not all is what it seems.
The second movie from Hereditary director Ari Aster certainly has influences from The Wicker Man, with its focus on Pagan rituals, and also bares resemblances to religious cults like The Manson Family and Heaven’s Gate. Yet Aster also sprinkles it with his own ideas and haunting imagery and with an exploration of human drama at the centre of the horror, like Hereditary this again disturbs. Lead actress Florence Pugh is mesmerising as someone already dealing with grief, faced with uncertainty in her relationship and then unfamiliar surroundings that initially seem exactly what she needs – and then something else entirely. The movie also explores passive-aggressive behaviour amongst the various characters which only adds to the tension.
It is a bit long at over 2 and a half hours, and gets predictable towards the end with a little too much foreshadowing … but direction is effective with great use of sound, unconventional editing and (cleverly) daylight to build unease. A movie that further cements Ari Aster as one of the most interesting horror directors working today.
I think it can’t be argued by anyone familiar with French horror cinema, that they certainly challenge boundaries and cross lines on what is acceptable or even tolerable in a horror movie. The infamous Martyrs proved that and now we come to this latest, French-Belgian offering that quite literally goes for the jugular.
Justine (Garance Marillier), a gifted female student starts her first week at Veterinary school where she finds herself involved in a brutal hazing ritual. Whilst getting covered in Horse blood and generally abused by the seniors, despite being a devout vegetarian, Justine is pushed into consuming raw meat. However the experience unlocks a new found craving and it’s not long before Justine finds herself developing a hunger for human flesh.
Part coming-of-age movie, part sexual awakening with a twist … this gritty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek drama is equally distasteful and weirdly fascinating. The movie jumps from development to development a little too quickly for me, with Justine’s cannibalistic cravings coming as a bit of a leap. However with at times artfully stylish and unflinching direction from first timer Julia Ducournau – I couldn’t look away. Even during some of the sicker sequences, with a stomach churning finger-eating like it’s KFC scene almost reaching my limit. It never gets as gory as suggested though, but is effectively disturbing in it’s rather ‘matter of fact’ approach to something unthinkable.
Certainly not for a wide audience and well, left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) … but as an example of daring, provocative movie making, this still proved effective.
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