Family Creepshow: A Review Of "Hereditary"
If there’s one genre film producers are almost always ready to green light, it’s horror. With a relatively low budget, these producers are perpetually looking for that film that delivers the chills and thrills in a big way, and will mean great business at the box office. Hereditary opened in the USA this month as the film critics’ darling, this year’s Get Out; with first time full feature film director Ari Aster being lauded for having come up with the ‘scariest movie of 2018’. It is good, and there’s much to recommend the film for, but I wouldn’t go that far, declaring it some masterpiece.
Annie Graham (Toni Collette) is a miniaturist who seems to retreat to her art in order to escape the very frail grasp she has with reality. As the film opens, her mother has just passed away, and there is palpable tension in the relationship she has with her two children—high school stoner Peter (Alex Wolff) and extremely shy daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) seems to be the only solid personality, ready to roll with the punches of living in such a dysfunctional household.
At one moment a meditation on grief and dysfunctional relationships; the film soon coasts into the territory of highly suspicious bloodlines and the supernatural. It’s as these themes develop that the film elevates to its own brand of creepy and scary. To the film’s credit, Aster doesn’t go for big time scares or executing gore feasts. Rather, in the same vein as films like The Witch and Babadook, there is a more artistic, restrained manner of portraying Horror. One that is tightly wound within the everyday and ordinary, making it that much more effective.
Standouts in the cast would be Toni Colette, who gives us a range not normally associated with horror films. She is absolutely terrific here, followed closely by Alex Wolff as the son Peter. The attacks on their roles are very much rooted in being real and so when they react to the strangeness, it’s something we can very much empathise with.
The camerawork is astounding, the play with light, darkness, and shadows; and the swinging between the miniature Art of Annie and reality. It’s thanks to this technical aspect that the film rises above the rather humdrum plot-line and rather lacklustre final resolution. And it’s this weakness in story and the final punchline, that keep me from joining the voices of the US critics in granting this film a host of superlatives. It is good, and shows Aster has a lot of promise, but it isn’t as tight as it should be.
Images from @hereditarymovie