This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Josh Lewis’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
This movie is going to end sooooo many relationships including the couple that was sitting right beside me. “I don’t know that he deserved that,” he said as the credits rolled, followed up by a very heated “That’s rich coming from you of all people.” The conviction and rage in her voice and the brief moment of shocked silence held between the two before they shuffled out carried with it so much history I did not care to witness so congrats to Ari Aster on unlocking the true power of cinema I guess. Anyway, pretty fun movie, a very normal time, feeling at ease and such.
When I wrote about Hereditary I was shocked to see that not many people acknowledged how brutally, cruelly farcical that movie is in construction so I feel oddly vindicated by this movie which applies the same gleeful, stylish meat grinder (here though, for the anguish, isolation and gender imbalances of gaslighting) and ups the sardonic humor and disorienting absurdity. Wicker Man is obviously the folk horror point of reference but the final moments here also carried hints of Witchfinder General for me, only with that ending's transition to beastly, disturbing, fiery horror (complete with the echoing screams) now carrying with it a bizarre but troublingly earned sensation of relief and catharsis about ~cutting toxic people out of your life~. (Hashtag Scandinavian floral murder cult self-care?) The big climax of this would make NBC's Hannibal proud in all its emotional self-actualization through frenzied, gorgeously violent extremity.
Completely understand the gripes with Aster's self-satisfied style—a lot of my critical colleagues that dislike him frequently target the simplicity of the ideas combined with the pretentious, formally austere confidence he executes them with—but I do have to admit that that overly self-conscious control over his "art" dramas and the elaborate bodily harm he conceives as the only inevitable path for his characters does reveal something perverse and unhinged about how he thinks about relationships and communication that works for me. I don't know why. I don't even agree with his assessment but I find the way he sustains it and insists his barbarous "genre" inflections are incidental fascinating when the worldview of his films so very clearly don't see any kind of clean answers to pain in interiority or connection, only compromised ones where you not only accept but maybe even welcome your inevitable mutilations and sufferings. (Seemingly also likes to not just imagine but cathartically revel in people yearning/choosing to inflict violence on their own loved ones.) He has effectively realized this concept into his own vivid and visceral form of idiosyncratic, apocalyptic exploitation twice now, so I do genuinely think it's time we check up on his loved ones and make sure that they are okay.