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Hereditary  : An Eerie Inheritance
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Friday, June 22, 2018
Ari Aster
Alex Wolff. Peter. Gabriel Byrne. Toni Collette. Annie. Milly Shapiro. Christy Summerhays

Half the work is done if a horror film has two tropes: the setting has to be really secluded, scary. And the sound effects (music: Colin Stetson) must make you squeamish.


Young first-time director Ari Aster ticks those two off right away with a funeral notice as one of his first frames. The funereal ambience is thus set without fuss before Aster moves into a large, wooden bungalow all by itself, surrounded by woods.


In here resides the nuclear Graham family.Annie’s mother who lived with the Grahams has passed on.  A ‘secretive, private, difficult woman to read’ as Annie describes her mother at the funeral service. Throw in the word ‘manipulative’ too which Annie uses sometime later and that’s enough of an introduction to sense that the foreboding shadow of the grandma who’s just passed will cast itself on the family.


Annie herself isn’t always the comforting wife and mom to have around. The miniatures she creates with painstaking detail are artistic but horrific little pieces, replicating scenes from her own house and life. And she sleepwalks. Don’t know how husband Steve takes so long to figure her out. Or how son Peter can sleep knowing that mom could be lurking around his bed disturbingly.       


It’s more creepy gloom than grief in this house where teenage daughter Charlie who was close to her grandma, is in a world of her own, clicking her tongue to make a strange sound. That sound is predictably used off and on as a scare tool.


Bloodletting and grotesque faces are mercifully absent. But Aster piles it all on. Spirits, rituals, insects, a dog barking, a séance, a medium. Everything that can bring on the creeps comes unrelentingly, making this delicious for horror-addicts. But they come on slowly without violent jumps that usually mark this genre.


A grief counselling group and a friend that Annie seeks, add to the general ambience of connections with the sinisterly abnormal.


However, there are many moments that seem potentially scary but don’t end up with anything blood-chilling. The climax which goes on for ages, doesn’t strike terror too and signs off without being hair-raising. Though it does leave a tree-house door open for a possible follow-up. 


Sophisticated camerawork by Pawel Pogorzelski leisurely builds up the unease. And the performances are a great support for Aster and his macabre happenings. Although this is Tony Collette’s movie as central figure Annie who can swing from mom to monster, Alex Wolff it is who has the really interesting role of high school-going son Peter. How creeped out it must be to live in this beautiful wooden bungalow.


Verdict: For a classic horror film that disturbs but sometimes also disappoints, Hereditary gets a 3* rating.


Direction: 3/5
Story: 2.5/5

Screenplay: 2.5/5
Dialogues: 2.5/5

Music: 3/5


Reviewed by

Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author


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