One of the best & most disturbing family drama/horror films I've ever seen, HEREDITARY is well worth seeking out in theatres.
We meet Annie as the film opens, preparing for her mother's funeral. Far from the standard eulogy, Annie shares her shock at seeing so many strangers and describes her mother as a secretive, flawed woman. You get the feeling that Mom will NOT be missed.
Annie is played by Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine) in her best screen performance, seething with pain just below the surface that's begging to be unleashed. When she does, it makes you cower.
Annie's husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) is a soft spoken man, tasked with holding the family together. Their son Peter (perfectly played by Alex Wolff (Jumanji, Patriots Day) is a stoner, existing in the house as quietly as possible.
Rounding out the family is their daughter Charlie, hauntingly played by screen newcomer Milly Shapiro, who starred on Broadway as the original "Matilda" in that long running musical.
She is a LONG way from Broadway show tunes here. Her Charlie is a quiet, disturbing girl who often expresses herself with a loud "cluck" of her tongue, when she's not cutting the heads of off kamikaze crows.
There is something off about the family.
Writer/Director Ari Aster masterfully immerses you in their world almost immediately.
As the camera weaves through the miniature models that artist Annie is creating for an upcoming gallery show, the mini rooms unveil disturbing glimpses into their normal.
When a tragedy strikes the family, Annie begins a tailspin into anger, grief and despair that drives her into some very bad choices.
There are seances, terrifying otherworldly encounters and a creeping dread that makes your skin crawl.
Annie's unhinged, frank bitterness and depression is thrown totally off the rails by the family tragedy, which I suspected was one thing and shocked when it took another path.
With about twenty minutes to go in the film, Aster stages a scene in Peter's bedroom so brilliantly that something horrifying is revealed to you with incredible patience. It's there for you to see, but you won't for the first thirty seconds. When I saw it, it freaked me out in all the right scary movie ways, and STILL haunts me every night I go to sleep since.
The music score by Colin Stetson, his first for a feature film, is a terrifying element throughout, making your skin crawl well before anything visually scares you.
This isn't a cheap horror film with jump scares that will make you startle and laugh. HEREDITARY is an "Exorcist" like delve into a family facing powers far beyond their understanding. At least in "The Exorcist", Fathers Merrin & Karras arrived at some point to help that family.
Part of HEREDITARY's power is that you slowly become aware that no one is coming to help this twisted and tortured bunch.
Unfortunately, the final five or six minutes of the film almost destroy all the artistry before them with a too literal explanation of the events. It's disappointing and sad.
Like that special edition of "Close Encounters" that ruined the magic by actually taking Roy Neary inside the mothership, we should NEVER have seen what happens after Peter ascends into the treehouse. Alas.....
Ignore the final scene and enjoy the horror masterpiece that will wrap its darkness around you for the first 115 minutes of its running time.
HEREDITARY is scary as hell and gets an A+.