Jun 9, 2018

Watch this scary family and see your own for the full summer shock experience.


Grade: B

Director: Ari Aster

Screenplay: Aster (Munchausen)

Cast: Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine), Gabriel Byrne (Miller’s Crossing)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2 hr 7 min

by John DeSando

Newbie director Ari Aster has your attention: his Hereditary (which he also wrote), is a mash up of horror tropes that go from the creepy teen-age daughter to the creepy grandma, with immolations and beheadings to keep things interesting.  Such a stew is a necessary plan of action because the focus of the plot is not apparent until the last 30 minutes or so, and those last minutes are burdened with too much exposition that should have been in the rest of the film.

That ending takes the occult events since grandma’s death and the accompanying horrors and gives them context. It is the most satisfactory part of the film, barely justified by the disparate set pieces before it, which could have fit in any other horror film and made as much sense. However, Hereditary still is chock full of skin crawling family shenanigans that should keep the genre fans engaged.

The real horror here is the feeling that biological inheritance is a lock, and if the family is as weird as the Grahams, few of them if any will escape the consequences of the family’s sins, from grandma on down. No one is more distraught than mother Annie (Toni Collette), who sees her 13 year old daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), get caught in the family atrocity mode, as well as her son, Peter (Alex Wolff), stronger than almost everyone else but growingly more vulnerable to the ghostly rumblings, even when he is in class.

Mother Annie (Toni Collette) seems to carry all the guilt laid down by grandma. While Collette goes over the top, Essie Davis as the distraught mom Amelia in the Babadook is a model of restraint by comparison. Both moms are part of a growing body of horror films that reveal the anguish of being a mom with problematic children.

Hereditary, as in the case of other A 24 productions like It Comes at Night and The Witch, is less about horror gore and more about the psychological terror of family caught in its biological fun house.  Just seeing an incident or two of wacked-out action is enough to set the audience into fear mode of what more family bashing is in store.

The Graham family lives in an impressively spacious modern home in the Pacific Northwest (filmed in Utah), with one of the large rooms the workshop of artist mom, who creates miniature dioramas, some scarily depicting their own home and horrible occurrences in family history. Aster and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski craft a not-so-much jump scare atmosphere as a slow-burning fear based mostly on the interior madness of the family.

Hereditary is a good, if not great, summer scare to remind us that when it comes to family, we can offer just as much insanity as the best movie family.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at