The Darkness We Inherit - Hereditary
Disturbing. Unsettling. Unnerving. These are the usual boxes horror is supposed to check. Those are not, however, traits you wold associate with a multi-generational family drama. Mothers and their daughters; fathers and their sons. Everyone evincing traits they inherited from someone else. Everyone with very little control over how those traits manifest themselves. That is what is at the heart of Hereditary, a brooding horror showcase that is equal parts manic and stoic. For every bout of frenzy, there is an equal measure of deliberation. The end result is one that will ultimately stick with you much longer than you may want.
Annie Graham (played by Toni Collette in tremendous fashion) is an artist who specializes in the creation of miniatures. She lives with her husband, Steve (played baby Gabriel Byrne), their teen son, Peter (played by Alex Wolff) and their preteen daughter, Charlie (played by Milly Shapiro). This family unit is mourning the death of the matriarch of the family who is said to have had a secret life with secret friends. When Annie starts to see visions of her dead mother, she starts to attend group therapy sessions to cope.
While at the group therapy session, she meets Joan, a middle aged woman who is said to have lost her grandson. When Annie goes to Joan's apartment, she learns that Joan has reached her dead grandson via seance methods. It is at this point the story comes off the rails, as Annie starts to communicate with the dead and her family starts to become undone.
Have you ever seen something that starts as a dark take on one thing and then ends up being an even darker take on something else? That is Hereditary. Always brooding, always on edge, but constantly leaving you asking if it is starting to tell a different story.
My guess would be that this is one that will divide. There are bound to be people who do not buy its brand of scares. This is not a tidy story with spooks along the way. It is legitimately too much at time. It veers right up to the line and then crosses it with reckless abandon. Nothing about this feels safe. The stakes feel real and the pain is palpable. In particularly gut-wrenching sequences, Toni Collette's Annie is over the top in a way that will feel like genuine anguish. In particularly frenzied moments, she is over-the-top in a way that will feel like genuine insanity. Essentially, she's way too much in the best possible way.
Much like last year's Best Picture nominated Lady Bird, this film offers subtle commentary on the way children can impact the relationship between spouses. Whether it is parents having favorites or seeing visions of what they want their children to become, people have a primal need to shape the next generation. And it is that shaping, even from beyond the grave, that takes Hereditary beyond its scary images and sound. Yes, the pictures and sounds align in a way that maximizes that sense of dread, but it's what it has to say about family that might leave truly horrified.
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