I generally don’t watch horror movies because I don’t enjoy having nightmares, but I do like a good story so sometimes when a horror movie is getting great reviews I’ll try to find a plot summary because reading it is less traumatizing than watching it. So that’s what I’d planned to do with “Hereditary,” but then Rockford watched it (because he does enjoy having nightmares, I guess), and he told me all about it in great detail because he is the James Joyce of plot summarization.
I will not tell you anything about the movie — other than I am glad I didn’t go see it because it sounds terrifying — but I will say that it sounds like it’s about a lot more than Jumps and Scares. And it’s getting panned by a lot of viewers who say “Oh, that wasn’t so scary,” and that reminded me of something I was thinking about the other day and that is the movie “Annihilation,” a guy on the internet who hated it and a theory I have about the stories we create and when we create them.
I read “Annihilation” a few years ago and I didn’t like it at all because I didn’t connect with any of the characters. But Rockford read the whole trilogy and loved it, so when the movie came out he went to see it and he loved that, too, even though it departed significantly from the books. He thought I’d like the movie, so he rented it a few weeks ago.
I didn’t like it in the sense that I’ll ever watch it again, but I did appreciate it. It was beautiful (except for that decidedly unbeautiful pig-bear), and it was an interesting approach to exploring how different people deal with grief and trauma. Obviously, I’ve thought a lot about it since we watched it.
After we watched “Annihilation,” I was reading other people’s opinions about it on The Internet — which might lead one to believe that I do enjoy nightmares — and one angry media consumer on a message board kept coming back to the lack of military force as the reason he hated the movie. The government wouldn’t send in a team of women (and I quote: “LOL”), he said, it would blast the whole area with all the nation’s firepower. An America’s Might vs Some Aliens story was the story that he wanted to see and therefore the movie was bad.
“Hold up, Internet Man,” I might have said if I’d been having a conversation with him rather than writing a blog post about it six months after he argued with other people about it on a message board. ” ‘Annihilation’ isn’t a sci-fi movie about blastin’ aliens. There absolutely is a place in our entertainment universe for those stories, but if those are the only stories we’re willing to hear we end up with a much less rich entertainment universe.”
Which brings me to my theory about story creation: I think we see more introspective horror and sci-fi when the world looks like it might implode, because we’re spending more time thinking about how we got to where we are and how we might survive it. The flip side of that theory is that we get more popcorn movies when everything looks swell. Again: There is a place for “Annihilation” and “Independence Day” and for “Saw” and “Hereditary.” But it’s disingenuous to share your opinion on a movie (or book or TV show or whatever) without disclosing that what you actually disliked about the story was that you expected explosions and instead got metaphors. It’s fine if metaphors aren’t your thing, but I don’t think it’s fair to unequivicolly say “That movie was bad because more explosions would be more realistic” when the truth is closer to “I didn’t want to have to think about anything today.”
And also “Annihilation” is about a mysterious, shimmery force making the coast all freaky-deaky, so the whole “it wasn’t realistic” argument sort of falls flat from the get-go.
In conclusion, “Annihilation” was weird and thoughtful and you should see it if you like weird, thoughtful sci-fi.