If you scroll IMDb, aka The Internet Movie Database, you'll find this plot description for Hereditary: "After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences and begin to unravel dark secrets."
Yeah, that's not even half of the crazy that takes place in this freaky horror entry that electrified audiences earlier this year, but I'll spare you the gory details and just tell you what I thought of Ari Aster's directorial debut.
Now that the film has made it to the disc level, I slipped it into my Blu Ray player on a late Monday night in a dark house after the kid was asleep and the wife was located states away. Suffice to say that I spent the next few hours checking my six and staying warm under the covers.
Hereditary isn't just scary; the film will haunt you for a day or two. At the center of its mayhem is a simplistic looking yet deeply troubled family: Annie (Toni Collette), Steven (Gabriel Byrne, still mad he isn't Keyser Soze), Peter (Alex Wolff, brother of fellow actor Nat), and Charlie (Milly Sharpiro, who gave me nightmares). Right after their lovely and well-respected grandmother dies, the family starts experiencing truly bad events around their house, in town, and at school.
Charlie starts seeing good old Granny standing outside the school, and it's not long before Peter starts to hallucinate a little. Annie and Steven have no idea what's going on at first, but like any demon/ghost/evil spirit with an agenda scary tale, they will soon find out. Let's just say things very bad.
You know the movie is for real when a bird and a young girl lose their heads inside the first 45 minutes. Aster (who also wrote the screenplay) is out to shock you with its original take on the haunted house trick-and for the first 105 minutes, he succeeds.
Then, as the film rides into its finale and things get really weird (people getting set on fire in front of others and self-beheadings), Hereditary loses its way and goes in too deep. There's a certain point where a film can push a viewer to without losing their concentration and train of thought. Aster seems to up the ante with every freak-out, but in the end, goes over the limit. I spent the final 20 minutes wondering what the heck was happening. I also started caring less about what happened.
Old, naked folks staring mischievously at young people? I'm out.
Before you tell me, I am not full getting what the writer is putting down, let me stop you. I get it, but I don't particularly like it or would call it quality. A similar case was Boots Riley's Sorry To Bother You this past summer. A clever satire on racial indifference with a splash of sly humor turned into a cover your eyes gross-out third act that nearly ruined the movie. It pulled a U-turn and went in another direction that I will call the no fun town. Hereditary does that as well, and I didn't care for it. Self-indulgent comes to mind.
Here's what I liked about Hereditary. It's inventive as any horror film that has come along in years, The Conjuring included. This is a brand of horror that makes you contemplate your own life, worry about your kids, and rethink the Sunday supper at grandma's house. It's original in many areas and for this non-horror fan, the effect was substantial.
Here's what I really liked about Hereditary: Collette. It's not easy for an actor or actress to give a true award-caliber performance in this genre, but if this fine actress isn't nominated for an Oscar this January, something is wrong with the Academy. She isn't just convincing as the most tortured mom of all time; Collette takes this movie to another level. When she goes full bat-wild crazy in the second half, Collette doesn't chew scenery. She builds new houses of intrigue in this land of make-believe. Wow.
Wolff is almost as good, making you care and wonder how bent Peter has become. Peter plays a bigger part than you think, and Wolff doesn't waste our time.
Critics called this film a masterpiece and I'll disagree. It's a solid horror film with an excellent Toni Collette. She makes it special until the ending nearly obliterates what was created beforehand. There's something about restraint in a supernatural horror flick that is nearly impossible to find.
Nevertheless, I would have recommended the theater price for this one. Now that it's on home viewing, Hereditary is well worth a look, warts and all. Just be ready for nightmares, second-guessing about fireplaces, and a few extra thoughts about grandmothers everywhere.
Come for the freak, stay for the Collette.