There are horror movies, and then there are those that make you
wonder if you can turn out the lights when you go to sleep that night.
“Hereditary” is beyond creepy; it's downright bizarre, and
features the kind of horrific events that genteel people just will not
want to see. This one is not
for the faint of heart.
It begins benignly enough: Annie
(Toni Collette) is mourning the recent death of her mother. And
like a lot of mourning, it's complicated.
She had an on-again off-again kind of relationship with her, which
she's not at all afraid to admit at the microphone during the funeral
service. She characterizes her
mother as a very private person, one who could be very stubborn at times,
and not very affectionate. What
we soon realize is that Annie is just like her mother.
She's married to Steve (Gabriel Byrne), who seems to be
long-suffering in his patience with his virtriolic spouse.
We're never quite sure what he does, other than hang around the
house in cardigans, sitting in his easy chair, reading, and occasionally
cooking. (Ward Cleaver in his
dotage.) The house is eerily quiet and still most of the time---no
television, no computers, no cell phones, nothing at all electronic,
because, well, that would let in the “real” world, and spoil the eerie
mood, enhanced by the atonal music.
Annie and Steve have a son, Peter (Alex Wolff), who appears to be a
typical high school student, in that he stares at girls in class, and
looks to take the family car to a house party so he can smoke some weed
with his friends. The fact
that his Mother makes him take his little sister along (“she could use
the socializing”) represents only a theoretical wet blanket---he ignores
her while she imbibes the mystery brownies.
Annie, for her part, is usually at home working on her small-scale
models. She keeps getting
these increasingly frantic calls from the gallery that's looking to
display her next show, so she must be notably successful at this.
But what we see are miniature representations of the scenes from
her own life. And as her life
takes some strange turns, so do her figurines.
Annie tries one of those support groups, where you introduce
yourself with first name only, and everybody says “Hi” to you at once,
and then they all sit quietly while you tell these total strangers
everything about your inner emotionality.
There's a particularly empathetic person in the group, Joan (Ann
Dowd), who gives Annie her phone number and tells her to call any time.
Annie, wanting more than the typical support group's banal
aphorisms, decides to visit Joan at her home, but that quickly gets weird,
as Joan introduces the idea of a séance.
Meanwhile, the pressure of family events causes the normally placid
Steve to turn acerbic, and the normally well-adjusted Peter to suddenly
become a moody loner. We
understand the emotional reaction to extreme stress and horrific grief,
but even so we are still unprepared for Director and writer Ari Aster's
climactic ending, a coronation of the ancient occult.
It would be a great understatement to say that “Hereditary” is
tough to watch. Only the most
adventurous moviegoers need avail their fragile emotions to this fearful
horror tale fraught with the unexpectedly horrific.