‘Hereditary’ Movie Review: An Unforgettable Toni Collette Performance Is One Of Many Disturbing Attractions
I am not entirely sure if it makes the most sense to classify Hereditary as a horror film, which sounds ridiculous, because so much of what happens in it is objectively horrifying. But it is such an unruly beast of a movie that there is no way to slot this dodecahedron into any square peg of a genre. My cognition is too profoundly unsettled to know how to offer a satisfying response. Here is a sampling of the mish-mash of emotions Hereditary is likely to inspire: terror, inspiration, puzzlement, amusement, shock, possibly even arousal. Writer/director Ari Aster can rest assured that this is something no viewer will soon forget.
The title primarily refers to a legacy of mental illness. Annie (Toni Collette), an artist who specializes in miniatures, grew up in an unstable household, with a depressed father, chronically withholding mother, and a schizophrenic brother. In the wake of her mom’s death, she attends grief counseling sessions in private, unwilling or perhaps unable to share her burden with her family. There is husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), who tries to be supportive but can never fully understand what she is going through; son Peter (Alex Wolff), who turns to marijuana to retreat from the world; and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who is predisposed to make clicking sounds and scissor the heads off dead birds. An unimaginably terrifying accident sets everything in motion, tearing apart the already frayed edges of this unit and lending a cloud of intense numbness to the entire proceedings.
Much of Hereditary is a showcase for Collette to present the full range of human emotions. At times, this makes perfect sense, even when it is painful to witness, as when she spews out wails of primal agony. At other times, she has me thinking, “Why the hell is she saying that? Why is she using that tone of voice?” If nothing else, it is a go-for-broke, captivating performance. It is also representative of the undefinably hybrid nature of the whole film. It is very much an unbearably simmering domestic drama, but it is just as unmistakably a supernatural tale of devils and possession.
Capturing that juxtaposition perhaps even more than Collette (or at least more sneakily) is Ann Dowd as a suspiciously forward new friend from Annie’s grief group. She initially lends everything a grounded presence, but she ultimately reveals her true colors, and she is just as full-bore crazy as everyone else. The conclusion will have you going, “Oh, the devil really was here all along.” That plays not so much as a disappointment, but it is a bit of a comedown after all the unique intensity that precedes it.
Starring: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd
Director: Ari Aster
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Rating: R for Grisly Accident Images, Intrafamily Shouting, Disturbing Behavior, Macabre Moments, and Horror-Oriented Nudity
Release Date: June 8, 2018