For the past year, we’ve been hearing, “This is the movie we need right now.” From Get Out to Wonder Woman to Lady Bird to Black Panther, diversity on the big screen has been the centerpiece of Hollywood’s growth within the last few months. The quiet release of Annihilation, a sci-fi horror drama starring primarily all women — four scientists and a paramedic whose womanhood are not their defining characteristic — is precisely what we have been clamoring for.
Unfortunately, it was not predicted to do well at the box office, and thus was released on Netflix internationally. Indeed, it has not done well in theaters in the U.S., which is honestly boggling to me, given that it is — again — exactly what people have been asking to see for so long. The state of what type of movies do well in Hollywood is another article entirely, but this is why you should go, go now, and see this movie in theaters while you still can.
This is an intelligent, slow, quiet film that should have you leaving the theater with a lot on your mind. There are flowers of the same species that form into different shapes. There’s a skeletal bear with the remnant’s of a character’s dying scream echoing out whenever it opens its mouth. At the lighthouse, we see a group of skeletons separated and organized out into some sort of indiscernible pattern. There’s an albino crocodile with the teeth placement of a shark. Josie’s (Tessa Thompson) previously scarred arms begin to sprout leaves, and she becomes one with her environment — but we can only guess that, because we don’t actually see it happen. That’s how many of the events and circumstances are within The Shimmer and the movie itself. We just don’t know. And that’s wonderful.
It simply doesn’t matter in the context of the story. To go along with the deliciously uncomfortable atmosphere of the film, there are occasional moments of body horror and environmental oddities that shock you in unexpected ways. They are quite grotesque, but look like a form of modern art. There are places in this movie where the setting that our characters are traversing through could be an exhibit from a museum. The questions that Lena (Natalie Portman) is asked when she returns from The Shimmer are met with simple “I don’t know”s and thoughtful, pregnant pauses.
This is not a blockbuster film, and it does not provide easy answers or solutions. The existential dread, suspense and anxiety that this film emanates is truly something different, as opposed to the bombastic, in-your-face, over-produced movies that come out so often. If you are someone who looks forward to a new type of film in Hollywood, a new era of what should be made and what can be done, this is the movie for you.