[Film Review] Hereditary

by Joe Meyers

Written and Directed by Ari Aster

Starring:

Toni Collette as Annie
Gabriel Byrne as Steve
Alex Wolff as Peter
Milly Shapiro as Charlie

Release date: June 8, 2018
Run time: 2h 7min
Rated: R

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Have you ever been in your bed at night, and were suddenly convinced someone, or something!, was lurking in the darkness just waiting for the perfect moment to get you? Those moments where you hear noises behind you and your imagination runs wild with what it could be. Those goose-bump causing, adrenaline pumping seconds between thinking you see something in the corner of your room and realizing it’s the pile of laundry you put in your chair. Those terrifying occasions where your fear causes your heart to beat so loudly you think it can be heard from the other side of the house, and your mouth goes dry just as that bone-chilling tingle radiates throughout your entire body…that’s what HEREDITARY was for me.

In his first feature film, writer-director Ari Aster has crafted a horror movie that stands shoulder to shoulder with recent genre entries like THE BABADOOK, THE WITCH, and IT COMES AT NIGHT. The movie tells the story of the Graham family hurtling into a downward spiral after the death of their matriarch. That is all of the plot I’ll mention in this review, as this is a film best seen with as little information as you possibly can. I’d managed to avoid the majority of the hype surrounding its festival screenings, and all reviews prior to seeing it last Thursday night. I’m thrilled I went in without any real knowledge, or expectations, about the movie.

Aster is masterful as a writer-director here, and anything he does going forward will be on my radar. HEREDITARY is a slow burn family drama built on bleak tension, creepy moments, and oppressive dread. It won’t be for everyone, but people who love that type of horror should be thrilled. The movie doesn’t rely on jump scares, instead giving the viewer a plethora of creepy scenes that the camera lingers on. You don’t get quick edits where you’re on to the next thing here. No, Aster makes you wallow in the moment, he draws you into the film, and you experience the events along with the characters. It’s been a while since a movie has gotten under my skin, and into my brain, like this one has.

Speaking of the look of the film, Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski has put together a beautiful movie. Much of it takes place at night, and there’s many moments of something just being on the cusp of coming out of the darkness that’s done amazingly. The way the shots are framed just draws you in, and you can’t help but feel terror for the characters involved. The production design by Grace Yun, art direction by Richard T. Olson and the work of art department, and set decoration by Brian Lives are all glorious as well. They had to build the house that’s in the film from scratch, and the fantastic job they did shines through in every frame.

Colin Stetson’s score was nearly a character all on its own. It’s stunning, haunting, and used perfectly throughout the movie. The score combined with the sound design helps push you into that dreadful, creepy feeling for nearly the entirety of the film’s run time. I know A QUIET PLACE, deservedly, gets praise for its sound design, but I think HEREDITRY is neck and neck with that movie. If you see it at the cinema, grab a seat in the middle-middle of the auditorium and let the sounds envelope you as the horror unfolds before you.

Finally, I have to talk about the cast led by the brilliant Toni Collette, as Annie. There’s been chatter about her getting an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her work here. I’m hopeful what GET OUT did at the Oscars last year will leave that door open for her this year. She’s utterly impressive and amazing in this role. Right there with her for me was Alex Wolff, playing her son Peter. I wasn’t familiar with him before seeing HEREDITARY but he does incredible work here. He does some seriously emotional heavy lifting in the role. Rounding out the family is Milly Shapiro, as the quirky and creepy daughter, Charlie, and Gabriel Byrne as the husband and father, Steve. Shaprio immediately enters the list of all-time creep kids in horror movies for me. What she can do with just a sound, a facial expression, or a body movement is impressive in building her character. While Byrne doesn’t get some of the meaty moments, he deftly handles the role of the family member trying to hold everything together as he watches it slip through his fingers.

As with all horror, this is super subjective. What I find terrifying, creepy, and nightmare inducing you may fund dull and boring. Earlier in this review I mentioned THE BABADOOK, THE WITCH, and IT COMES AT NIGHT. If you were a fan of any of those movies I think HEREDITARY might be your bag too. For me, this has become my favorite film at the near halfway point of 2018 and I can’t wait to see it again.

 

This Week in Horror News [12/22/17]

By Joe Meyers

Hello, Fright Fans! We’re off for the next two weeks (although there will be another “Field Trip” episode available on, or around, New Year’s Day), but here’s some horror-related news items to keep you “in the know”:

 

  • Netflix renews German original series DARK for a second season. “DARK is set in a German town in present day where the disappearance of two young children exposes the double lives and fractured relationships among four families. In ten, hour-long episodes, the story takes on a supernatural twist that ties back to the same town in 1986. Written by Jantje Friese and directed Baran bo Odar (Who Am I – No System is Safe), DARK is a chilling mystery-drama-series: an intricate puzzle full of twists. Slick camerawork and realistic performances enhance a textured web of curious characters, all of whom have a connection to the town’s troubled history, whether they know it or not.” This is one I’ve not had the chance to watch for myself yet, but hope to binge at some point soon.

 

  • At the end of Season 1 Fox’s “The Exorcist” was on the bubble for renewal due to its ratings. At the end of Season 2 series creator Jeremy Slater tells Entertainment Weekly that the series is once again in limbo. This time it’s due to the uncertainty surrounding the recent 20th Century Fox/Disney deal.

 

 

  • Elvis is back in the IDW comic series “Bubba-Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers.” This comic book prequel to the original story by Joe R. Lansdale, adapted in a 2002 film starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, is co-written by Lansdale with Joshua Jabcuga, and illustrated by Todd Galusha. The story revolves around President Nixon tasking “the King” with taking on extraterrestrials. Watch for issue one in March 2018.

 

 

  • While we’re still waiting on the “What We Do In The Shadows” sequel “We’re Wolves” fans of  will get a return to that world in the new spinoff television series “Wellington Paranormal.” Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement bring back Shadows’ police unit members Mike Minogue and Karen O’Leary to hunt ghosts, werewolves and to deal with demonic possessions. Six 30-minute episodes are due to air in mid-2018, but there’s no firm release date for countries outside of New Zealand at this time.

 

  • Deadline reports that Amazon will pass on all three of its 2017 Fall Pilot Season Shows. This includes “Sea Oak”, a zombie comedy starring Emmy-winner Glenn Close. Close was to play Aunt Bernie, who died in a home-invasion only to return as a zombie hellbent to to “get the life she never had.”

 

  • The 1956 psychological horror film, “The Bad Seed” is scheduled for a remake at Lifetime. Rob Lowe will direct and star in the movie, as the father of young girl who just may be the “personification of evil.”

 

  • “Another WolfCop” filmmaker Lowell Dean shares his thoughts on the future of the franchise in an interview with Tom Holland’s Terror Time. As a huge fan of the first film, who’s dying to see the sequel when it’s available, I hope we get more down the line.

 

 

  • While Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is expanding nationwide today, you may also currently catch Part 2 of “Trollhunters”, his wonderful animated series, on Netflix.

 

  • As briefly mentioned on our “Stranger Things” Season 2 recap episodes, David Harbour revealed to Variety that Season 3 might not be released until 2019. 

 

  • The sixth installment of the “Tremors” film franchise will be titled “Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell”, and it’s set for a may 2018 release. Burt Gummer actor, Michael Gross, also revealed that he will not appear in the now filming “Tremors” television series, and Kevin Bacon’s character, Valentine McKee, will not appear in the film.

 

That wraps up this week’s horror news. Check back with us this time next week for another recap of the happenings in the wonder world of horror.

“Get Out” scores a hat-trick at The Gotham Independent Film Awards

by Joe Meyers

Yet again we’ve gotten proof that 2017 really is “The Year of Horror Movies.” Last night writer/director Jordan Peele, and his debut feature film “Get Out”, won big at The Gotham Independent Film Awards.

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Jordan Peele took home the award for Best Screenplay as well as the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award. Although “Get Out” lost Best Feature to “Call Me By Your Name” it did receive the Gotham Audience Award. Sadly, the Best Actor Award went to James Franco for his turn as Tommy Wiseau in the upcoming “The Disaster Artist” over Daniel Kaluuya for his brilliant performance as Chris Washington.

However, a horror film just being nominated for five awards is amazing much less it winning three of the five categories. The genre has long been dismisses and forgotten, with rare exception, during award season. Last night firmly put “Get Out” in the spotlight as we approach more award ceremonies over the next few months, and that’s nothing but great news for the horror genre, horror filmmakers and horror fans.

“Get Out” poster art by Francesco Francavilla