Ellen the matriarch of the Graham family has passed. Her immediate family feel grief but are not overwrought. Her daughter Annie (Toni Collette) found her mother to be overbearing and correcting. Going as far as to insist on breastfeeding Annie's second child Charlie (Milly Shapiro) who she identified as her favourite. Older son Peter (Alex Wolff) is more stoner then student. Paying little attention in class, crushing on a girl that he does not know how to speak to and resentful towards his mom over an incident from their past. His dad Steve (Gabriel Byrne) tries to play peacemaker in the home. Strange events begin to unfold at the funeral. The service is full of people that Annie does not know. That's followed by a hushed phone call to Steve reporting that Ellen grave has been decimated next the two kids begin to see weird things at school. Charlie has her own personal quirks she draws odd figures, hardly speaks instead periodically tongue clicks a tic that becomes more foreboding as the action progresses.
Ari Aster's debut film has several elements unfolding at once. Annie is a miniature creator whose working on a project that is falling behind schedule due to events at home. The film uses her work as a device to show our heroines building stress level as her client leaves friendly but probing calls looking for an update. It also is a stage to recreate events from the far and near past some, creepy, other disturbing and others downright horrific. The narrative begins to unwind a tale of untraditional beliefs, attempts to reset the natural order with Annie in the centre a seemingly unaware vessel that her every effort to protect her family is having the opposite effect.
Gabriel Byrne has perhaps the most even keel performance of his career as Steve. He's the bridge between Annie and Peter. The ranking male in a female dominated family walking a half step behind his wife. Milly Shaprio has her breakout performance as Charlie. She is a dictionary-worthy example of a loner. Bearly speaking she, pays no attention to the things that regularly captivate 13-year-old girls plus suffers from a severe nut allergy that keeps her mother constantly on guard. Look for the Handmaid's Tale Ann Dowd as Joan. She appears in the parking lot of a grief support group that Anne first attends after her mother's death. She's a shoulder for Anne to lean on and an audience for her to speak freely because she can't do so at home.
Heredity is a horror film that is psychological and ritual based over physical and brutal. It's a key element of a successful film in this genre when it can deliver the chills in the open spaces of broad daylight. The first section of the film builds the family store by introducing keepsakes and recounting remarks from the past. A low grinding soundtrack beside personality traits of the principals add to the suspense, tension, and dread headed to a final act that puts Linda Blair's head turn from the exorcist as a throwaway scene in an ABC afternoon special. Avoid the chatter and the hype and get out to see this one soon.
*** Out of 4.
Hereditary | Ari Aster | USA | 2018 | 127 Minutes.
Tags: Tree House, Funeral, Grief, Necklace, EpiPen, Support Group, Decapitation, Seance, Incantation, Broken Nose.