This film adopted the Red Queen’s mantra in Alice in Wonderland (2010) “Off with their head.”
Horror movies are a tough sell for many of you, not the least of which reason is the repetitive sequels represented by the Saw and Insidious films. However, I was intrigued by Hereditary, principally because of the splash it made at the recent Sundance Film Festival as well as being picked by many reviewers as the best horror movie of 2018.
Additionally, it stars Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne as Annie and Steve Graham, a couple that you soon learn are on a slow descent into a living version of Hell. I love both of these actors, and I can only encourage all of you to see Ms. Collette in the very funny The Way, Way Back (2013) and Mr. Byrne in absolutely one of my favorite films of all time, Into the West (1992).
Here, let me simply say that the film begins with the death of Annie’s troubled mother. You learn trouble is brewing when grandmother’s grave was vandalized shortly after the funeral.
Torment descends on everyone, beginning with the Grahams’ two children, a 13-year-old daughter called Charlie and Peter, a 16-year-old son. Milly Shapiro gives a remarkable first performance as the young Charlie, a girl afflicted with a number of problems, the most troubling being the fact that she has visions of her recently deceased grandmother. Regardless, this young actress has talent and deserves to be seen in better films.
Alex Wolff plays the teenage son, and he also does a splendid job playing an average teenager who becomes caught up in a twilight zone-like supernatural nightmare. He just wants to be normal, but his fate is going to lead him in another direction.
With her husband Steve largely staying in the background, Ms. Collette’s Annie is the dominant character of the movie. Though she displayed great talent as a designer of miniature homes and their contents, a dark world slowly starts to envelope her. Her decision to attend a seance only serves to let evil in the front door of her home.
While this is a scary movie that forces you to watch many scenes while looking through fingers covering your eyes, Director Ari Aster makes a terrible mistake of releasing a film that lasts over two hours. Though the movie leaves a significant impact on the audience as you watch a family overcome by a supernatural force that may be inherited, its horrific impact is diluted by the movie’s length.
Unfortunately, when you finally figure out what is happening to the Graham family, you are likely to leave the theater like me thinking, “The movie was good — not great.”