By Derrick Jean-Baptiste
The film revolves around Dani (Pugh), and her loss, her grief, her loneliness and confusion, and her ultimate acceptance. There were parts of this movie that strongly reminded me of Hereditary, in that both involve loss and overwhelming grief, as well as shows how people try to deal with it.
I HAVE to mention the deaths in the beginning. Having struggled with suicidal thoughts for a few years (better now), I personally have only seen one thing more horrific in a movie. It clashes so hard with the brightness of the rest of the film. I'll have trouble getting those images out of my head, especially the hose in her mouth.
Dani is just in a daze for much of the film. She stares gory deaths in the face, and even appears to have anticipated them before they happened. She drinks and eats what she's offered. As more of her group disappears, the more she becomes involved in the festival, and the more distant Christian - her aptly-named boyfriend - becomes. It all culminates when she sees something that breaks her, even though, upon her approach, she already knew what it was going to be.
Eventually, the people of the festival become as a family to her. She feels accepted and wanted, finally. She didn't experience this feeling of "Home" with her boyfriend, whom she constantly capitulates to possibly feel some semblance of human connection. And, personally, I don't think she experienced "Home" with her deceased family. Her voicemail hinted that her parents don't often pick up the phone; people mention that her sister constantly causes Dani alarm, then doesn't respond for long periods of time. In fact, at the very end, she's given power for the first time in the movie. She makes a horrible, but liberating choice. The horror of the consequences overwhelm her, but her new family is there to grieve with her. They cry, they scream, they tremble together. EVERYTHING this commune does, they do together. Dani is now a part of something. She has shed the skin of her old life and accepted the flowered crown of the new one.
Regarding the festival itself, it comes off as confusing, needlessly violent, and completely alien. But I think that's the point. The cast is thrown into a whole other world that they try to comprehend in different ways, whether through logic and research or flamboyant disregard. In the middle of the film one character seeks forbidden knowledge of the festival, and is punished for it.
At that moment, we know that we're not meant to make sense of what is happening. We're as confused and horrified as the cast, not even sure if what's happening is real. It makes it easy to laugh at some moments, but also keeps us wondering what else could possibly happen. Some natives explain a few things, but I never found it crystal clear. This can make the plot seem disjointed or rambling, but I focused more on putting myself in Dani's shoes. How would I react with all this bullshit going on around me?
I recommend at least one viewing of this film. Do not go into this expecting hereditary. Just got out about 30 minutes ago. The movie has layers, just ones that are not the easiest to pick up on. Is it about grief? Cheating? The lack of empathy we give others when they need it most? My head is still spinning but I can only review this with one word. Absurd.