Every year it seems that there’s a micro budgeted horror film that makes a splash early in the year at the annual Sundance festival with rave reviews and much anticipation preceding its release. A recent example of this sort of thing would be the 2014 film The Babadook. Another would be the 2016 film The Witch, neither of which resonated all that much with me. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that I had virtually the same reaction in regards to this year’s Sundance horror movie darling, the much ballyhooed Hereditary. Like those aforementioned films there are some nice jump out of your seat moments along the way but suspense is milked way past the point of tedium and it certainly does the film no favors. Truth be told it’s really hard to justify the film’s nearly two and a quarter hour running time, especially in a genre where the best examples tend to run no more than, say, ninety minutes. It serves to create an atmosphere of dread but will also arouse feelings of annoyance for those less tolerant or patient.
Image: Toni Collette in Hereditary
The one thing that most who choose to see Hereditary are going to be talking about is the central performance by Toni Collette. The Australian actress crossed over into the mainstream with her lauded performance as the mother in The Sixth Sense nearly twenty years ago. Here she manages to even best her performance in that film with her emoting as a woman caught in the throes of unquenchable grief. There are several scenes involving the actress that remain with you long after the movie has come and gone, such are their power. It’s certainly one of the more potent takeaways from the film.
After a title card that announces the death of Collete’s mother’s character in the film, obituary style, unnerving things begin transpiring in fairly quick succession. Annie (Collette) is a mother to a teenaged son and a middle school aged daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Her husband (Gabriel Byrne) doesn’t seem to mind that Annie spends her days crafting scenes with miniatures of things that seem to eventually take place in the real world. When a tragedy rocks the family to its core, Annie finds herself attempting to murder her family while sleepwalking, among other things. Is she possessed, haunted or just losing her mind? It’s all eventually answered in a finale that owes a debt to Rosemary’s Baby but not before a lot of setup that accounts for most of the film’s over length.
The plot attempts to blend many elements that have served as the basis for some of the most fondly remembered horror films of the last fifty years and on some levels it succeeds.
The attempt at the end of the film to tie them all together, unfortunately, doesn’t gel as well as I’m sure first time director-writer, Ari Aster, may have intended. I will concede that Hereditary is a bit better than both The Babadook and The Witch but it’s still hardly the horror classic that one might be lead to believe. Proceed with caution.
Hereditary is playing at AMC in Hickory and all around the area.
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