Before writing and directing Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019), Ari Aster worked on a collection of short films. It was here where he cut his teeth and developed his skills for crafting feature-length movies. The first of Aster’s short films was The Strange Thing About the Johnsons – a dark tale about incest and sexual abuse in a suburban setting.
In the movie, Sidney Johnson is a writer and a father, who accidentally walks into the bedroom of his son, Isaiah, as he is pleasuring himself under his bedcovers. Isaiah is understandably embarrassed at his father’s sudden appearance, so Sidney quickly calms the situation down by telling his son not to worry. The two engage in conversation and Sidney reassures Isaiah that what he is doing is natural and not something he should be concerned about.
Feeling relieved, Isaiah thanks his father for his advice and watches as Sidney leaves the room. As the door closes, Isaiah moves his hands from under the covers, revealing a photograph that he was looking at while pleasuring himself. The photograph is of his father, Sidney.
The shocking opening to The Strange Thing About the Johnsons is merely a primer for what follows. As the story progresses the situation between Sidney and Isaiah develops into abuse, with the son becoming increasingly obsessed with his father.
Isaiah forces Sidney to take part in a sexual relationship, which slowly eats away at Sidney as he feels unable to escape. It is deeply disturbing, incredibly difficult to watch, but expertly handled – the subject matter is taken very seriously.
The Strange Thing About the Johnsons explores the horror that lurks within a family home. This isn’t a story about vampires, demons, or the occult, it is about a monster – a man-made monster, who exists in plain sight and uses his power to manipulate.
As with all good horror stories, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons has some very uncomfortable moments. These moments are designed to shock and unnerve the audience, but perhaps the true horror of this tale is that this situation could play out in real life.
When the credits roll, an uneasy feeling starts to set in, because the scenario presented in this film could be taking place in a house across the street, possibly next door… or even upstairs.
Cast and crew
The Strange Thing About the Johnsons is written and directed by Ari Aster, produced by Alejandro De Leon, and features music by Brendan Eder. The cast includes Billy Mayo, Brandon Greenhouse, Angela Bullock, and Stanley Bennett Clay.
Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this spotlight post focusing on a must-see horror short. This ‘spotlight’ post on The Strange Thing About the Johnsons is one post in a series of ten posts looking at superb horror movies and shorts which you may or may not have seen.
Other posts in this series include: Suspiria (1977), Don’t Look Now (1973), Psycho (1960), The Omen (1976), The Blair Witch Project (1999), The ‘Burbs (1989), Lights Out (2013), The Woman in Black (2012), and Bone Tomahawk (2015).
The aim is to spread some horror love around the internet, and possibly introduce you to a slice of horror that you may have overlooked. So, make sure to add this short to your next horror movie marathon.
And for more horror-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.