By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Disturbing horror film has drugs, alcohol, sex, and gore.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Some messages can be inferred from negative examples, like the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, or that giving birth to someone doesn't make you their mother, but they're weakly conveyed at best.
Positive Role Models
Laura abuses alcohol and cocaine and has an eating disorder, but we never see her seeking help or trying to do anything but hide her conditions. Celia wants to feel important and loved and uses her power to hold the villagers in her thrall. Abi and her father stand against the cultish villagers, knowing what they're doing is wrong, but Abi still cooperates with Celia, and her father just drinks heavily and rails against the villagers.
All characters are White except two strong female secondary characters. Laura's boss Maxine appears to be Black, and Abi, her old friend from the village, has a White father and Black mother. Laura has had a couple of same-sex romances.
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Violence & Scariness
Real-world violence includes a man stabbing himself in the neck with smears of blood shown, a character collapsing and dying after overdosing on cocaine, a character crushing another's skull using a rifle butt with supernatural gore in the form of black goo and worms shown inside the crushed skull, a hard elbow to the face, and a hard slap in the face of an unconscious victim. Supernatural or fantasy violence includes a woman chewing with blood dripping from her mouth holding a baby whose face has been chewed off, black liquid oozing from the nose, and black goo staining underwear like during menstruation. Characters walk into a pond or slough to die. A supernatural being vomits earthworms into a human victim's mouth. Gore and horror are paired with sex when a couple is seen making out or having sex, each time more physically decayed, covered in black goo, and with disturbing, slurpy sound effects. Gore is also paired with sex when a pagan ritual involves people suckling a woman's breasts that are leaking black goo and then engaging in an orgy after drinking the goo. Lots of dark, scary atmospheres and distorted sounds and images.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Gore and horror are paired with sex when a couple is seen making out or having sex, each time more physically decayed, covered in black goo, and with disturbing, slurpy sound effects. Gore is also paired with sex when a pagan ritual involves people suckling a woman's breasts that are leaking black goo and then engaging in an orgy after drinking the goo. Some nude breasts, nudity from behind, thrusting, and groaning during the orgy as well as a variety of explicit sexual positions and number of partners. Some real-world kissing and caressing, fully clothed. A diary mentions sexual positions, penis sizes, and implies varying amounts of pleasure for each.
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"F--k," "c--k," "c--t," "d--k," "a--hole," and "bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Repeated snorting of cocaine, both in lines and from a nasal sprayer, once to the point of overdose and death. Repeated heavy drinking, including putting vodka in a water bottle to bring to work, and drinking hard liquor and wine straight from the bottle. A character crushes pills and sneaks the powder into another's food. Two characters smoke cigarettes once.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Matriarch (2022) is a horror film with some possibly triggering portrayals. Disordered eating is shown multiple times, including a couple that specifically show the character sticking her fingers into her mouth to induce vomiting after meals. At the very end of all the credits, a website and phone number are provided for those who need help with disordered eating, or who know someone who needs help. Alcohol and cocaine are heavily abused, and death from overdosing is shown. Past mental and psychological abuse is mentioned. There are two depictions of suicide by walking into water. Sex is paired with gore in several scenes, including an orgy after suckling black goo from a woman's bare breasts, and a couple making out in a car as they increasingly decay and become covered in black goo. Violence includes crushing a skull with a rifle butt with supernatural gore shown, a gory depiction of an infant with its face chewed off, black goo dripping from body parts instead of blood, and gore from worms and rotting. People at the orgy are nude from behind and some female breasts are seen along with sexual sounds, thrusting, and depictions of different positions and numbers of partners. Strong language includes "f--k," "c--k," and "c--t." An extended scene shows excessive alcohol and cocaine use. Both snorting lines of cocaine and putting cocaine into a nasal sprayer are explicitly shown.
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What's the Story?
MATRIARCH is the story of high-powered ad exec Laura (Jemima Rooper), who's coping with career pressure and past psychological trauma with cocaine, alcohol, and an eating disorder. One night after an especially excessive alcohol and cocaine spree Laura collapses and dies. A mysterious, supernatural force enters her body and revives her. Not sure of what's happening to her, Laura decides to return to her childhood home and try to work things out with Celia (Kate Dickie), the mother she hasn't seen in 20 years. There's something very strange about her mother, and about the whole village, too. So when it starts to look like the strangeness may be related to what's happening to her, Laura determines to find the truth.
Is It Any Good?
Fans of horror movies, especially those who like them deeply disturbing and creepy, will find enough dark chills to enjoy this one and overlook its flaws. But the gore, sex, and substance abuse make Matriarch definitely not for kids. Sensitive viewers and those who may be triggered by substance abuse, disordered eating, and death by suicide should probably look elsewhere, too.
The overall story isn't terribly original, but there's an interesting take on the manifestation of ultimate evil. There are some plot holes and some odd, unexplained tidbits that may leave viewers wondering why they're in the movie at all. But the runtime is quick, the story clips along at a good pace, the acting is fine, and the sense of dread and fear permeates the whole experience.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence and gore in Matriarch. How much is too much? Why do some people sometimes like being scared or grossed out?
What about the sex and nudity, especially the way it's combined with disturbing, gory images? How did seeing that affect you?
Horror is a popular genre for movies and other media. What do you like about it? How does this movie compare to some of your favorites?
- On DVD or streaming: October 21, 2022
- Cast: Jemima Rooper, Kate Dickie, Sarah Paul
- Director: Ben Steiner
- Studio: Hulu
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: December 31, 2022
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