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Quarantined friends re-create Toni Collette's dinner meltdown from Hereditary
For filmmaker Austin S. Harris, the latter seemed like a more palatable option. Exercising an ingenuity similar to that of the family that made their own Pirates of the Caribbean ride at home, Harris and his friends (all of them actors and filmmakers themselves) divvied up the speaking parts for Toni Collette's iconic "I am your mother" dinner meltdown monologue. The resultant video (inhabiting the worlds of both drama and comedy) went viral and even got a share on Twitter from A24 — the movie studio that released Hereditary.
"I was inspired by the video of those celebrities singing 'Imagine' to their iPhones," Harris tells SYFY WIRE. "I thought it would be funny to take that 'We Are the World'-type template, but get my friends to collaborate on material that’s dark instead of inspiring. I figured it’d be funnier."
While the satiric facsimile of Aster's movie may look simple enough to the average viewer, the story of its production (which took place across four days or so) reveals some unexpected challenges.
"It started out as just a fun idea, but then it quickly got serious," Harris continues. "I ended up making a Google Doc with a link to the scene at the top, and the monologue below, which I copied from the screenplay, and edited to make sure it was word-for-word what Annie [Collette's character] said. Then, I sent it to a bunch of friends, and basically let people take parts on a first-come-first-serve basis. Some people sent me back a single take, some people sent 10."
Then came the question of deciding on tone. Everyone involved was encouraged to keep on their quarantine best (aka casual house attire) for maximum comedic effect.
"From the beginning, I felt like the video would be funniest, and most effective, if everyone earnestly tried to perform the monologue," he says. "It’s such a dramatic scene in the film, so I felt like seeing people in pajamas, just going for it into their iPhones, would be much funnier than any purposeful attempt to be ironic or funny."
If anything, this little project is a reminder that Ms. Collette was totally by the 92nd Academy Awards. The only victory she enjoyed for her portrayal of Annie Graham was the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actress.
"Her performance in Hereditary is just next-level," Harris adds. "To be in command of a film that balances disturbing horror and dark comedy is awe-inspiring. I’m big on Oscar predictions, and I remember looking at all the lead-up awards and hoping she’d eke her way in, but obviously there’s a big bias against horror performances. Hopefully that changes."
Closing in on 100,000 likes and 25,000 shares, the video is clearly a big hit with audiences looking for light-hearted entertainment in these difficult times.
"Realistically, I thought it would just make my friends, and some friends of friends, laugh," Harris admits. "But I’m not shocked [it went viral], because my friends in the video are all hilarious and really talented, and it’s been so fun watching people react to specific people in the video, or just the entire video itself."
Aster, who wrote and directed the horror film, has yet to acknowledge the re-enactment on Twitter, but it's only a matter of time, right? After all, he's got nowhere to be. The coronavirus pandemic has shut down all public gatherings, including creepy midsummer festivals in Sweden.
Hereditary is currently streaming on Amazon Prime if you're looking for something to watch at home.
The roster for Harris' video (in order of appearance) is as follows: Kristen Van Nest, Hunter Harris, Ton Do Nguyen, Nialla Lebouef, Max Banta, Kim Hoyos, Harris, Mikey Levitt, Isaiah Hoban Halvorsen, Jaz Garner, Aleah Quiñones, Rachel Hilson, Marishka Douzable, Jana Miley, Aaron Daniel Jacob, Analisa Gutierrez, and Jahmia Phillips.