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Watch Now: Ari Aster’s “The Strange Thing About The Johnsons” Is Short Film Gold

Watch Now: Ari Aster's "The Strange Thing About The Johnsons" Is Short Film Gold

I woke up early this morning and did my usual web surfing before I had to head out, just like I do most Sunday mornings.  Still somewhat sleepy, I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; just something entertaining enough to provide a slight jolt of energy.  What I actually found (on, of all places–shout out to them), writer/director Ari Aster’s The Strange Thing About The Johnsons, woke me the hell up.

From what I’ve been able to gather, this film has traveled the festival circuit for a while now, so it may be old news to some readers.  But if you’re like me, and this is brand new to you, I promise you that you’re in for a somewhat uncomfortable, yet thrilling piece of cinematic mastery.  Billy Mayo, Angela Bullock, Brandon Greenhouse, Carlon Jeffery, and Daniele Watts all give impressive performances in the film’s lead roles.
Without giving away too much of the short film’s story, I’ll say that The Strange Thing About The Johnsons deals with an undoubtedly, mostly unheard-of dynamic of contemporary-family life.
Neither the writer/director, nor the creative team behind the film, are black (from what I can tell), but it has an all-black cast.  What’s significant about that, you might ask?  Well, unlike films of a similar artistic and creative make-up that have come before The Strange Thing About The Johnsons,  this one doesn’t have any racial dynamics in its plot.  This is color-blind casting at its finest, if you ask me.
Take a look at the trailer for The Strange Thing About The Johnsons before watching the film.  Then watch the film to see if its story turns out to be what you thought it would be.
UPDATE: S&A contacted the director, Ari Aster, and he answered a few of the question many readers had after watching The Strange Thing About The Johnsons.  Read his response HERE.

The Strange Thing About the Johnsons… speechless from Michael Roy on Vimeo.

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Can anyone tell me the link to the actual movie clip because it can't be good


I don't understand how this was at all racist. If it was a white family used then people wouldn't have a problem with it at all, because it isn't possible to be racist toward whites. We forget that in our world today, colored people are just as common as whites, if not more-so in some places that used to have an abundance of white people. Molestation is unfortunately something that can happen to anyone of any color. So they picked a black family for this film, who gives a fuck? White people take on a lot of shitty roles in the movie industry because film makers are afraid that if they cast a black person for certain characters it'd come off as racist and unethical. Which is what you are all turning this into. You guys made a movie trying to portray such a deep and serious story line into a fucking debate about racist casting. I hate humanity.


whooo! what an ordeal. that's not entirely a diss, tho'. like most others, i did think it was well made, but i can't help but wonder: to what purpose? i don't agree that this was a satire or intentionally comedic. if it was intended to be either of those things, it was an epic fail. it seemed to me to be melodrama in the same way that "precious" was a melodrama. i, too wondered why, if the filmakers weren't af-ams, they chose to portray af-ams in this project. racist? maybe, but that seems too easy a charge to level (isn't it always: ie, of course, they're racists [who ain't?], but what else is going on?) like a lot of short films, i kept wondering why this story is being told, and i think i would have wondered that whatever the color of the actors. indeed, it's an ODD story, period, in my view. so maybe the filmmakers thought: "wth, it's crazy anyway, why not use colored folks?" i thought the use of the term "monster" as applied to the son was very interesting in the context of lots of movies about "monstrous" offspring, but that sex is the arena of his horror is what makes this particularly icky. finally, as i say, i thought it was well-made, but for the last scene: the poker killing was not entirely persuasive. besides, the better ending would be for him to kill her. sad, but true.


Of course as being a black woman I initially want to be on the defense for my race, however that isn't what this movie is about. Growing up in a black home we are taught to keep our "business out the street" and to "mind our own business". I find the critical character to be the mother, she so badly wanted to maintain a picture perfect image that she ignored the blatant hell occurring in her own home. The son used mental manipulation to over power his father, it wasn't as if the father liked it, he desperately wanted it to end. A prime example of how well of a manipulator the son is happens just before the fight between the mother and son; he tries to convince the mother of how she doesn't know what she's saying and she is emotional. I say although this film was a hard pill to swallow I can't deny that it was beautifully done. It captured all the intensity of the family and has started a controversal movement. What's done in the dark will come to light.


Um yeah…that was disturbing and I wish I hadn't ate before watching this….Ummm WoW!!!


Bravo!!! I am breathless. This was so powerful. Thank you for this.

eddie hall

wow i am speechless.thats art


How is this not an overly melodramatic work? Not giving it any moral judgments and imagining this as having a cast of any other race, the plot just still seems over the top to me. Dealing with the incest and abuse are heavy enough topics but then to add on the running out into the street to be run over by a van and then a fight to the death at the end? Just too much for me. The acting was on and off with it getting better towards the end, but not good enough to give me a reason to re-watch it or recommend it.




WHAT THE f$@% DID I JUST WATCH!!! I think I need to go to therapy after seeing this.


Any short that can elicit such a range of emotionally charged responses is at the very least worth it's weight in gold.


I watched it twice and still dont know the point that was trying to be made. I laughed to tears until the final scene with the mother. But like everyone else, I have a lot of "why" questions. The kernel was him getting out the tub and saying put that in your book. For a short that looks like it was put together in a day I would recomend it.
And one other thing, I have two teenage sons, and from here on out I will make sure I knock and wait for the invite before entering their rooms.


Is this just the whole movie? Only 30 minutes? I was looking on google to find out when it came out,and i found this. It was really good/interesting and also crazy but is that it!!!!?


A true piece of shit. The acting was horrible, the plot was abhorent and the fact that the director chose to package his cinematic "vision" using a Black family, not coincidental, but blatantly insulting and patently racist.
Of course if it's dealing with the most heinous, sick, perverted pathology, why not find a Black family to feature in the story!!!
I hope and pray that African-americans have the guts to protest this guy Ari's crap till he choses to get out of the film making business and find another job…maybe the Klan is hiring. Maybe he could do The Birth of a Nation part deux. lol


Just watched the film, I must say it's terrifying to watch as a black man. It was really well done. With all societal emasculation and oppression we've had to endure it's the scariest thing I've ever seen. A commentary on the society I see now where boys are more aggressive than the men who inhabit our neighborhoods. It's sad because for a thinking man the film hits me at deeper levels than just a taboo subject. Independent in film and thought for as long as possible, that's the only way a film like this get's made.


damn son! this is one of those films you want to bleach your eyes out after watching… which is what makes it successful. beautifully shot. disturbing. intense. well performed. some films are just what they are – entertainment – and not meant to be a voice of reason or world changing–i can respect that.


Wow! A very interesting film here. However, it left me with so many unanswered questions. First, I thought it was really loving of the father to not make his son feel inadequite for the masterbation scene, but when did the son develop such an unhealthy relationship with his father, and why didn't his father act like a parent? The father was clearly the abused one in this one.
I know children are sexually abused, but are things like this FOREAL, or is this just some fiction that was thought up only for this film? Who knows…


That was intense. I didn't think I'd want to see it a first but I'm glad I did. I thought it was a great film. Very well done, acting, directing, set design.


Umm. I finally saw this right now. This was really sick but awesome at the same time. SICK!!!! But…why am I laughing? I think I'm in shock. I'm about to read the interview with the director RIGHT NOW.


Furthermore, I imagine this film might make life a lot more difficult for children of incest/molestation and a lot simpler for the perpetrators who will insist that the child "wanted it."


Pretty well-done film, but the subject matter is HIGHLY disturbing. And it's amazing to me (though, perhaps it shouldn't be) that the only time all-black casts are considered is when the subject matter is pathological. Had this been some feel-good, middle of the road or heroic film, no one involved with the film would have even IMAGINED an all-black cast–because they can only see us, I suppose, as we've been taught to see ourselves.


Micah, I made it a little further (to about 6:01) but had to stop when it became evident what was happening behind that white fence. *gags*


Wow. This film has done its job based on the reactions it evoked. Worshiping Zombie Jesus is not gonna do anything now that you have seen it. I viewed it as satirical. And I thought it was refreshing. I found "Mr. Graham" by Julius Amedume far more disturbing because it seemed more real and authentic.


Funny how a short that was posted here a few weeks ago that dealt with pedophilia in a realistic way was pretty much ignored – despite being nicely done- but this piece (of crap) gets the most attention. Guess when you're bored and desperate for something unique, anything can fill the void…. the more fantastical and disgusting, the better.


I am far too young to see films like this. Cut: too me crying in the corner, trying to make the bad images go away.


After this gumbo of vents, gasps, shock & awe, praise and worship has settled down to a nice simmer, I thought I shake a little of my own home grown cayenne pepper in the mix. See, it goes without question that all of us view movies with differing agendas in tow. Now, although I hate using trite phrases, I have to us the following to embellish my opinion on this film short and the comments that it inspired –> “We, us, you and I… Black Americans, are not a monolithic group“. Within that group, some of us love Horror Films ( I don’t). Some of us love the cat & mouse of “You Go Girl” films ( I can do without them). Sci-fi, gets little of my attention. It also goes with out question that many cherish the “poignant” and “relevant” and “positive” classification of black films ( I never knew exactly what that means). And of course, money flows like cheap wine when “Boy And Girls In The Hood” shake it to the ground and sell dope round n round. Hey, and violence in a movie seems to be a great calling card. Heck, I loved the scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone met Sollozzo and lieutenant McClusky at "Louis' Italian American Restaurant in the Bronx. Those gun shots to the head gets me every time. Now, there’s no denying that some folks love sex scenes (my hand is lowered). That reminds me, didn’t a film on a dysfunctional family (white family) win a few awards? I think the movie was called American Beauty! And lawd have mercy, many folks adore Tyler Perry ( My woman does, so I had to watch his latest “Madea’s Christmas” last night!). You know what, say what you will about Tyler’s products, he has masterful comic timing, he gives his audience exactly what they want and he is obviously not living another man’s dream. Having said all of that, in short, in my opinion, there is a place for The Strange Thing About The Johnsons.


Finally got a chance to see this film BEFORE I read the comments and I must say WOW TWICE! once for the viciousness of the comments and once again for a superior short film. the art direction was incredible, the framing immaculate and the shot selection was superb. As for the script, it caught me by surprise and it made me uncomfortable and made me think…WHICH IS WHAT ART SHOULD DO!!! My only problem with the film is the soundtrack, I thought it needed more, but that is a personal choice and it didn't take away from a well crafted FILM. BRAVO!!! ….And in case anyone is wondering, I'm Black.


This movie had pros and cons. Pro: It was filmed very well; the acting was good, the directing was nice and the cinematography was excellent. Con: The subject matter was too much to stomach. I mean, people cringe when this stuff happens when a parent abuses a child. The subject of the parent getting abused by their child was too much for me that I couldn't finish the movie. Foe what it is worth: Good movie, bad subject matter.


There's nothing genius about a son raping his father in a bathtub! I think it was the sickest 30 mins of film I've ever seen! And by the way it's not a race thing by no means! I'm sure there are whites,hispanics,indians etc who suffer from this sicken behavior! ALL OF YOU WHO THINK THIS IS ART REALLY DO NEED TO FIND GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I wouldn't classify this film as dark comedy by any stretch, maybe more satire. What I will say is all of the elements are genius…genius in the sense that even though the emotion it garnered within me was one of discomfort, I COULD NOT STOP WATCHING. The cinematography, the acting, writing, directing…STELLAR. I was pulled in from jump and isn't that the point? To find a subject that pushes the envelope and exposes those nasty little secrets everyone has? Sure, it was a disturbing film…but, it left an impression; it made me want to go back to the drawing board and tap into the unknown and put some thought provoking, daring piece of cinema out there. When I first read Push I was very disturbed by the context and when it was made into a film, I wondered if they were going to depict the film the same way the book was written…where the young, Precious actually experiences an orgasm while being raped by her father. I was deeply troubled by that, DEEPLY, but understood the story, it helped me gain empathy for her character and gave her depth and courage. The movie, of course, did not get into those kind of specifics, but even still the subject matter was still troubling and disturbing. To me, this film is no different; just my thoughts of course.


MAKES ME PUKE ! What a monstrous film , no comedy at all . FIND GOD ! Urghhh .


There was nothing "Comedic" about this film at all… Yes, the Film was "Dark" But a Comedy? "NO!!" But the truth of the Matter is, this is Real life stuff!! I'm sure There is Family, that is probably going through the same thing .. Incest, Rape, Murder, which we witness at the end of the film, is NOT a laughing Matter!! If people are "Laughing" at this, YOU NEED JESUS! then, you need to go to the nearest Mental Health Facility in your area for observation.. I'm a very open minded person, but there are certain things in life that WE just can't laugh at..


The comments on this thread are so bizarre and idiotic. Most middle-class blacks are only 1-2 generations out of the ghetto (see:projects), so I'm not sure where the snobbery is coming from. If people don't enjoy a film, then they don't! Attacking an entire race of your own people makes you look stupid because 1) blacks will NEVER, EVER agree on anything 100% 2) art is subjective by definition and 3) even if one likes dark comedy, that doesn't mean one will like THIS one. It's akin to someone telling you how low class YOU are for not eating sea urchin or caviar. Dark comedy is a genre that people of all races shy away from, and you either like it or you don't. On top of that, the script, visuals, acting, plotline, etc have to be solid otherwise it can quickly diminish the quality. Anyway, I found it refreshing, captivating, and unique. I really only have 2 critiques since most articulated some of my thoughts; 1) the son's acting was incredibly weak. I didn't see his wooden acting as part of the satire at all. Dark comedy is not about being stiff, and this guy should be replaced. 2) The new wife was 2-D, and I would like to see her have a fuller personality and get suspicious (or something!) of her husband's predilictions. Not suprised one bit that the one role that gets the "dull" treatment is the young black actress.




WOW-WEEEEEEEE! Okay folks, I've resisted commenting on this thread for various reasons. Well, first, before I even hit the post I saw the comments flash by on the left of the home page. Then, I thought to myself, "do I even need to see what they're talking about?" But then, I noticed a distinctly different flavor in the opinions. Then I was hooked like a fat rat in a cheese factory. The video was gone but the opening trailer was still there (It looked very interesting). Okay, I continued to read the comments. After reading the comments (remember the video is gone) I had a pretty good idea what I could be missing (or not). I mean, it goes without question that many of the comments on a site of this nature, focus on the "assumed" negatives of a film, and I understand that. So, since curiosity has never really killed this old black cat, I goggled the link provided by ZACK B. Now, I don't know if it's my PC or the nature of videos provided by Vimeo but every 30 seconds or so the dang thang kept stopping. Anyway, I made it through the first 10 minutes. At that time I believe I had seen enough to make a qualified opinion. Well folks, again I find myself in the minority crowd. I have to agree with KMOORE 8435, FILMGUY, CYNTHIA (YEAH CYNTHIA TOO :-)), KIA AND SISTHEBLOGGER, in that this was a well crafted piece of work. The set designs were excellent and the acting was solid across the board. Even the extras appeared to be very professional. Also, the editing, directing and suspense factor were to be admired. Hats off for the director and the producer and the whole crew, job well done.


This is SATIRE people. Have we become so accustomed to mediocre, surface level films that we can't see that there's more at work here than just the premise. No wonder Tyler Perry is so successful. Comments sections on ever blog that target Black readers have been so basic. This is not meant to be taken seriously. This stiff acting style is done on purpose. The poking fun (is a darkly comedic, disturbing way) at suburbia, particularly Black suburbia where 'taboo' subject like this get swept under the rug as… 'this doesn't happen in our community so we don't need to talk about it.' The premise is twisted and slightly ridiculous on purpose. The writer/director is saying more here. I'm glad he used a Black family… and after reading the comments section I'm smh that it flew over 'our' heads.

Zach B

FOUND IT! Better quality.





@landlocked I thought of Ritual too from the description. I guess this short film is no longer up.
= (


WOW, just WHOOOW hmmm. We are used to the opposite normally in such situations. This shows us that this is possible, though this is fiction, stories tend to have something of the reality. I'm still wondering why he did this, it was more than love. And what the father wrote in the book, we will never know. Our first response will be emotional confusion, or we must not exaggerate? For this being filmed, it will often happen in reality, right?


I thought it was a waste of the obvious talents of all involved parties. Pretty great execution of a ludicrous, disturbing for disturbing's sake, and pointless premise.


I found the project reminiscent of a Stanley Bennett Clay film known as "Ritual." Anyone seen it? Ironically, Stanley Bennett Clay is also in the film (in the wedding reception scene). In terms of critiquing the content, I must say I'm still kind of speechless.


Wow, very thought-provoking. The cinematography was great…the acting sufficient. I found it overall pretty well done. Who cares if they're black? I know of no man of ANY color that would be punked by his son like that. Same thing with the mother. What mother, of ANY COLOR, would let that ish stand?? That's why it's a comedy people. Absurdist brilliance well crafted. Lighten the eff up.

LeonRaymond Mitchell

@Kia, Black want super non intelligent fare that is all about them with no other folks walking around but Black folk, and don't dare put some Latinos in it there would be outrage from the Black community, Black folk have become overwhelmingly the bigots they so disliked but with bad taste! I remember a long time ago when I would go into small arty theaters and see foreign that were superb and look down the row of seats and see Black folk as well as white folk, Now Black folk have become so intolerant they can even support a Black filmmaker from the UK who is doing excellent work. I am Black film maker and I am damn sure happy to make Latino films with a mostly Latino cast cause they support your work !!!


This was the most disturbing, perverted, demented and nonsensical stuff from the pit of hell I have ever seen. Straight demonic. NO!!! It wasn't funny and No!!! it wasn't entertaining. Bad enough we get to see enough black people, let alone black men in a horrible light all the time, then this B.S???? Honestly if it had a white cast I would feel just as bad about it but being pro active for my culture it brought tears to my eyes to see my people doing this garbage. Please burn every copy like they did the memoirs at the end of the film. Bad… Just bad…


I saw this in LA earlier this year. The plot is the only thing provocative about this movie. The acting was very stiff or overdone at times. It didn't do it for me at all.


oh, the horror!!!


Why in the world are people taking such an OBVIOUSLY ridiculous plot so serious? I can't possibly be the only one that viewed this as a comedy. I thought it was very well-made and hilarious throughout. Never took much notice that the cast was black. Who cares? It could've been a family of caucasians, asians, latinos, whatever. I don't think the typical bonds of son, father, and mother are limited to one specific group of people.


Brilliantly disturbing and I'm not surprised that no one made a comment of praise. If you check out their facebook page, it's unfortunate the comments that plague that page. Are black audiences NOT able to look past the normal storylines (church themed, gangsta themed, sappy romantic themed, straight bs comedic themed, etc, etc–non challenging).


I watched an interview with the filmmaker where he stated this whole project started off as a joke so I'm still trying to figure out what to make of the whole thing. I will say, towards the end I think the whole film jumps the shark though.


Wow… For this, they saw fit to use an all-black cast?


Darla & Mark

Don't know what to say, oh one thing the directing was good.

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