Thank God, a horror movie that I’m actually looking forward to. Haven’t I said that before about another movie? I feel like I have and it turned out to be not worth my high expectations. I don’t know, I’ll look this up about myself later.
The story looks like it’s about this family and the grandmother just passed away. But as soon as she does, everyone from the mother and her two kids start experiencing possible supernatural or psychological events that weren’t always there.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Toni Collette (XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE , this week’s HEARTS BEAT LOUD , and the upcoming VELVET BUZZSAW ), Milly Shapiro (feature film debut; congrats, miss), Alex Wolff (JUMANI 2 , MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 , and upcoming films STELLA’S LAST WEEKEND  and THE CAT AND THE MOON ), Ann Dowd (AMERICAN ANIMALS , NORMAN , CAPTAIN FANTASTIC , and this week’s NANCY ), and Gabriel Byrne (CARRIE PILBY ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Ari Aster, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the score is Colin Stetson, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. The cinematographer is Pawel Pogorzelski, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Finally, co-editing are Lucian Johnston (editorial debut; congrats, sir) and Jennifer Lame (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  and PAPER TOWNS ).
Overall, this looks like it’s going to be a mind-fuck of epic proportions. I’m legit looking forward to this and would love to be blown away.
This is my honest opinion of: HEREDITARY
Annie (Toni Collette), her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), elder teen son Peter (Alex Wolff), and younger teen daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), just suffered a family tragedy. Annie’s mother passed away, and it’s had a rather unique effect on everyone, especially on Annie who had a very strained relationship with her mother. She tries group therapy sessions, but the more she suffers, the more she begins to act differently and seeks hope in unlikely places as even more tragedy strikes the family.
I’m not entirely sure if I agree with the critics and current high praise that this film is getting, but it’s a damn good film.
I think it’s important to note that the film isn’t quite as psychological as it makes itself out to be. That isn’t to say that this movie doesn’t have its psychological elements, but I would say it’s mostly supernatural. The reason I say this is because this movie does deal in a lot of supernatural things. Like, ghosts, seances, possessions, all of which make up the majority of the horror. The psychological elements are mostly in dreams and certain shifts in character behavior, which have their place in the story, but not the majority.
Well, I said it’s a damn good movie right? So what do I like about it? Well, it stars Collette, so already that’s a bonus for any motion picture if you ask me, but she really does carry this movie. She as Annie goes through a gauntlet of emotions throughout the film. We’re first introduced to her as she mourns her mother, whom she’s had a complicated relationship with her entire life for how manipulative she could be. Hence, why she’s not all that upset. Yet she still goes to group therapy. Then she’s more or less a well-adjusted mother, and as the story progresses, Annie becomes more and more desperate, angry, aggressive, and it all flows very well and naturally, bouncing flawlessly from normal to insanity.
But if there’s anyone that deserves just as much praise, it’d be Wolff as Peter. Yeah, that kid from NAKED BROTHERS BAND went on and did something masterful in this film. Peter has a strained relationship with his mother due to some traumatic events in the past and has never really forgiven her, despite keeping things normal between them. A little detail that I enjoyed is that he’s not antagonistic toward his younger sister, Charlie. In fact, he seems rather caring, or… as caring as he can be toward a sister who is so odd and… quite possibly not all there in the head. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t selfish or careless, leaving her alone while they’re at a party so he can go smoke weed with a group of other kids, not verifying if the cake being served has peanuts in it, as Charlie has an allergy, among other things. He’s not a bad kid, he’s just caught up in a series of situations that he’s not equipped to handle; that no human being would be able to handle.
The only real problem that I have with the movie is that Byrne kind of plays that cliché role of that one person who is all like, “You’re crazy, I don’t believe in the things you say,” type of character. This is made even more infuriating when the supernatural stuff is happening right in front of his face and he simply brushes it off like they’re cheap parlor tricks. I will never accept this as something that can be done well because I’ve never seen it done well in a movie before. Even the Conjuring films had skeptics that eventually couldn’t deny the crap that was happening to them, and I can definitely say that this movie is better than that as a complete package. But because of this trope, I can’t in good conscience say that it should be overlooked. Great movies either play with clichés, or subvert them. Either way, this movie fails in that specific regard. And it was doing so perfectly up to that point. I know it’s only for a couple of scenes, and most people will likely overlook this blemish and not care, but I do.
What I especially love about this movie is how much time it takes to let its atmosphere sink in. Like when Charlie eats the cake with the peanuts and Peter is racing to the hospital. The moment that Charlie gets decapitated and Peter slams on the breaks and we see nothing of what happened is about the most chilling (and amazing acting from Wolff) thing that this movie could have done. His reaction, the quiet, his paralysis of fear, the tear that comes down his his face, his subtle trembling, doesn’t check the back seat of the car where the body of his sister stays, how he quietly goes to bed without saying a single word, and only flinches when he hears the crying of his mother when she discovers Charlie’s body. And this isn’t the only scene of its kind. Atmosphere was clearly important to this movie and it does a magnificent job with it. Give this movie serious credit, it’s got arguably the best direction for a horror film that I’ve seen in a long time.
There’s definitely a lot more to discuss, especially the climax, but the best I can say is that it’s creepy, chilling, disturbing, and freakishly well-done. That’s the best way to describe this movie. Is it the scariest movie that I’ve personally ever seen? No, but I can see people getting nightmares. Hell, I even had to open my window that night for ambiance noise and my ceiling light dimmed, I was so disturbed. Then again, I don’t consider myself very hard to scare, as I am very easily prone to nightmares. Keep in mind, I did the same thing after seeing THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, and that movie was awful. But I wager if you’re a horror aficionado, then you’ll get your money’s worth here. So as a recommendation, go for it. It’s a near perfect film that no fan of horror should miss out on, and even if you’re only a casual horror watcher, still give it a chance. More than anything, you’ll get great acting, direction, and an ultimately well-crafted movie.
My honest rating for HEREDITARY: a strong 4/5
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