Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review: "Hereditary" is frighteningly unsettling and ambitiously muddled

Hereditary Review
There have been several different types, styles and conventions in the horror genre that have established themselves firmly in genre itself. So much so, that fans of this type of movie have drawn lines in sand, declaring that only their favorite brand of horror is the only true form, and everything else is just a imitation. Me? I love it all. I've always loved it all. I love the goriest of zombie movies, and I love the most explicit of body horror movies. I've been fond of a few found footage movies, and I am sucker for dreadful mood and atmosphere.

There seems to be a sub-genre that is beginning to assert itself once again in horror canon, and again, horror fans are taking their side on the battlefield. Over the course of running this blog, I have posted positive reviews of both "It Follows" and "The Witch" and in both cases, I got shit for it. It seems many people, especially people my age, can't come to terms with a horror movie that is a slow-burn. We've been conditioned by Hollywood to believe that a bunch of young "actors" running around sweaty, getting killed in stylish ways is the only true way to scare somebody, but that's not even remotely true. We all are different as human beings, and we all have different fears. Something that might make one person feel brave may weaken the sensibilities of another, and that's why there are so many styles of horror movie, and why some of them work on others.

"Hereditary" is another film in line with "It Follows" and "The Witch," its another slow-burn modern horror movie, and if that isn't good enough for you. If you need the gore and the screaming children and the boo scares, then this isn't for you. If you long for mood and atmosphere and if you love the tension being turned up at a snails pace, then you'll end up enjoying "Hereditary" very much. It's a very well acted film. Its one of those movies that has just the right score which only heightens your senses that they turn to terror. I don't think it all adds up story-wise, and it may come as a surprise that I am ultimately still recommending the movie despite that. I'll let you in on a little secret, there have been plenty of horror films that don't make much sense logic-wise, but still have the ability to scare. ("Suspiria" being an incredible example of this) You can build some genuine dread even if your story doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

The thing though is that you have somewhat of an idea what the story means or maybe the director intended you to piece things together on your own without being spoonfed story. I am still on the road as to what the intention of "Hereditary" is though. There is clearly a story being told, but there is still so much left unanswered that it kind comes to a frustrating conclusion. The first hour and a half is full is enough to keep you freaked out, and I will even say that the ending is wildly ambitious. I don't need all the answers at the end of a movie, but I want to feel like those who made the movie have those answers. As this film ended, I truly wasn't sure.

Toni Collette plays Anne Graham, and when we meet her, she's at the funeral of her mother. Anne's mother was suffering for a horrible illness before passing away, and it's left a hefty dent on Anne. Anne cared for her and before anything involving her mother began, she suffered from depression. Her husband Steve (Gabriel Bryne) fears her depression may be making a comeback. All the while very strange feelings are beginning to fall on Anne's children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charile (Milly Shapiro). That's just one side of the coin though, as the movie wears on, it gets weirder and weirder. First, the movie seems to focus on Anne, then it seems to shift to Charlie and then to Peter. As the story gets weirder and shifts perspective, I started to get confused by who the main character was supposed to be, but at the same time, I wrapped up in the terror of it all. There are moments in this film that I think horror fans are going to be discussing for the rest of the year, and I know for myself there are images that I am not going to be able to shake.

Toni Collette does astounding work all the time, especially when she's in a horror movie and I am blown away by how underrated she is. She stears many of the scenes and emotions in this movie, and she drives the entire movie with aplomb. A horror movie isn't anything without creepy kids, and both Wolff and Shapiro came to creep you out, and we get ultimate creep factor out of both of them. Ann Dowd shows up later in the movie. If you've seen her on "The Handmaid's Tale," then she's probably already invaded your nightmares. Dowd is downright freaky in this movie, and I was fascinated by all of her scenes.

This is certainly an ambitious moment for A24, a studio that's been hard at work for awhile building an original slate of films. "Hereditary" fits in nicely with the rest of its filmography. There is plenty to like here, if you are a certain horror fan. You may get frustrated with where the story goes structurally, but there is so much terror on display that's hard not to have a goood time.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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