With Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne
Written & Directed by Ari Aster
Hereditary slowly but surely draws the viewer into what seems like a normal family scenario, but unfolds a world of dark chaos.
With an artistic approach paying attention to all aspects, from the mood, performances and the building of suspense, to the make-up and attention to architecture, I wouldn't want to label this an "arthouse" horror film, as it would be too limiting, Hereditary speaking across many boundaries. While it can play on the surface it leaves room to dig much deeper.
The fine calibre of actors today (even in the smallest, lowest budget tiny movie) cannot be underestimated, and besides the astounding tale progressing with a sharp artistic eye, one of the key ingredients making Hereditary such a phenomenal achievement is the fantastic performances across the entire cast, but in particular that of Collette as the mother unravelling amid a situation which seems to leave her helpless and hopeless in keeping her family from imploding. Losing control is a horrific thing.
Trends, bandwagons and tropes will (unfortunately) always be a part of the latter side of the movie business, as no matter how good the film, it needs a core audience to grab onto and assure it makes its money back (and then some). From the so-called torture porn era of the Saw- and Hostel-type movies, into the zombie wave or spooky franchises like Paranormal Activity, Insidious and The Conjuring universe, these have a style and flavour not only marketable, but very effective.
What people tend to forget (especially in periods where the Horror genre has dove into pure gore and gross-out territory), is that it still remains cinematic drama… extreme drama if you will. Horror's stigma-line is definitely starting to blur with films like these, making it a believable world not just randomly injecting a fantasy element for the joyride, but forcing the audience into an horrific ordeal, steering their emotions and manipulating their psyche to be transported into its unreal reality, investing in its characters, whether they're admirable or lousy people.
All of the building blocks are there to draw the audience into a scenario with characters challenged (to within an inch of their lives), systematically facing life threatening obstacles out of their control, survival instincts kicking in, spurred into action to stop the threat at all cost - And when these powers are supernatural, how can you fight it?
Sometimes it felt as though Hereditary's editing could've been tightened or communication between the characters much quicker, but there's always a method in movie madness (kind of like the audience frustrated thinking about how they would react in a situation, like screaming at the characters not to go into the woods alone or answer the door knowing the maniac is waiting…). For instance, the family dynamic in Hereditary is very much like any other, but when the layers get peeled back, its dysfunction exposed, raw and laid bare, we realize we're lucky not to be in their situation, but have to bare witness as it unfolds, either heading into overcoming it or total detrimental disaster.
While known for memorable indie Oscar contenders like Lady Bird and Room, movies by Kevin Smith, and music & film linked documentaries including Amy, Oasis and DePalma, distributor A24 has dabbled in the horror and sci-fi genres with the likes of The VVitch, The Monster, Under The Skin and Ex Machina. With Hereditary they're sure to make quite an impact.
Actors Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne are also more actively involved here as executive producers, and with the calls for a Collette Oscar nomination in this intense role, with genre films like Shape Of Water and Get Out making an impact at the 2018 Academy Awards, that prospect is not far fetched at all.
5 / B
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