In 'Hereditary' starring Toni Collete, a family tree gets uprooted in chilling ways
Posted June 4, 2018 5:16 p.m. EDT
Hypnotic and intense throughout, the brilliantly executed ``Hereditary'' taps into the ghosts within all of us -- the insidious roots of family dysfunction -- and turn them upside down and all around. It's an audacious supernatural thriller where the psychological fallout is just as disturbing as the apparitions that come chillingly to life.
Toni Collette, in one her best performances ever, plays Annie, an artist who creates miniature rooms and figurines. Many of her works have a disturbing quality and set the tone for the creepiness -- and madness -- that ensues.
Annie, as the story opens, has just lost her mother, and at the funeral, Annie's almost catatonic, quietly brutal eulogy is something to behold. The only one who appears to miss the deceased woman is Charlie (Milly Shapiro, astonishing), Annie's anti-social daughter, who seems to take granny's subsequent ghostly appearances as the natural order of things.
But granny (or whoever she is, or might have been) is just getting started, and her haunting legacy will literally and figuratively tear Annie's family apart, including Annie's concerned but frigid husband (Gabriel Byrne, very good) and sensitive stoner son (Alex Wolff, excellent). All the while, Annie is becoming unglued before our very eyes, and Collette is equally masterful at being scared out of her wits, recounting her troubled childhood at a group therapy session, or hurling devastating putdowns of her family at the dinner table.
In his impressive feature film debut, director Ari Aster lets the tension slowly build, but it's not that long before we know we are in for a roller-coaster ride, as Aster unleashes an unpredictable family occurrence that's guaranteed to shock.
``Hereditary'' excels for many reasons. It embraces the supernatural genre, but it's a film that goes beyond that, because the entire cast makes it so palpable and real. Technically, the film is a marvel, particularly its tense score, clever set design, brisk editing, and nifty (in an unsettling way) camerawork.
In the end, horror and supernatural fans will certainly get their thrills, but it's the psychic damage on the screen that will make the film hard to forget.
4 stars out of 4 stars Supernatural thriller. Starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro. Directed by Ari Aster. (R. 127 minutes.)