Hor­rific end­ing to a fright­en­ingly good start

Irish Independent - - The Critics - – Paul Whit­ing­ton

Re­views have been gush­ing for first time di­rec­tor Ari Aster’s hor­ror film Hered­i­tary, which has been com­pared to ev­ery­thing from The Ex­or­cist to Rose­mary’s Baby and praised to the giddy skies. Ini­tially, one can see why, be­cause in a rather bril­liant open­ing hour Aster re­sists re­sort­ing to the usual weary hor­ror tropes, and builds a for­mi­da­ble wall of ten­sion us­ing less con­ven­tional means.

Annie Gra­ham (Toni Col­lette) has just buried her mother, Ellen, and seems con­flicted about her loss. “Should I be sad?” she asks her hus­band Steve (Gabriel Byrne) af­ter the funeral: he just smiles know­ingly, and shrugs. And when Annie asks her teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff) and younger daugh­ter Char­lie (Milly Shapiro) the same ques­tion, no one seems to know what to say. Ellen was an am­biva­lent fig­ure, cold and mer­cu­rial, and may not have gone away at all: in, for me, the film’s best scene, Annie thinks she sees her hov­er­ing in a dark cor­ner, quiv­er­ing in the half light and smil­ing un­kindly.

Annie is a brit­tle woman, nervy and un­pre­dictable and haunted by un­spec­i­fied trau­mas in her past. She’s a minia­tur­ist artist and spends long hours con­struct­ing tiny ver­sions of the fam­ily home. If this im­pas­sioned fid­dling sug­gests a de­sire for con­trol, Annie doesn’t have much: Peter seems mildly hos­tile to her and young Char­lie is an odd child, who hardly speaks and uses metal, wood and the heads of dead birds to make macabre minia­ture fig­ures of her own.

As Annie strug­gles with her mother’s pass­ing, tragedy strikes again, and she’s driven into the arms of Joan (Ann Dowd), a kind­ly­look­ing woman who feeds her tea and cake and con­vinces her that com­mu­ni­ca­tion is pos­si­ble with the dead. Is poor Annie los­ing her mar­bles, or might there re­ally be a spirit world?

I re­ally like the way that sound, light and clever edit­ing are used to gen­er­ate creep­ing dread in

Hered­i­tary’s com­mend­ably ef­fi­cient and orig­i­nal open­ing hour: Col­lette de­liv­ers a com­pellingly in­tense per­for­mance, an ac­ci­dent cen­tral to the story is su­perbly dealt with, and Aster teases us with half-glimpsed and some­times imag­ined hor­rors.

But he’s too clever for his own good, and late on dis­cards his duty to his story and char­ac­ters in favour of shocks and ef­fects that feel both fa­mil­iar and con­trived. As a con­se­quence, a film that was brood­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing be­comes silly, even ris­i­ble: 90 min­utes is usu­ally the per­fect length for a hor­ror film, and this one runs for two hours.

I was sur­prised, too, once de­monic ac­tiv­ity is sus­pected, that no one had the good sense to call in the pri­ests, who have a strong track record in this area. Bloody athe­ists.

In New York City, bars and clubs ap­pear and dis­ap­pear like the sea­sons: most are for­got­ten, but a few leave haunt­ing echoes. Stu­dio 54 only lasted 33 months but would be­come the stuff of leg­end, and Matt Tyra­neur’s doc­u­men­tary tells the club’s story won­der­fully well. It was founded in April 1977 by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, two charm­ing Brooklyn wide boys, and sit­u­ated in a for­mer opera house in what was then con­sid­ered a dodgy part of mid­town Man­hat­tan.

Don­ald Trump was among the mi­nor lo­cal celebri­ties who at­tended the open­ing, but things re­ally kicked off when Mick Jagger threw a birth­day party at Stu­dio 54 for Bianca, who rode across the dance floor on a white horse. The day af­ter there were queues around the block, and a ridicu­lously strict door pol­icy only made the place seem more al­lur­ing.

In a time be­fore Aids, drug binges and wild sex abounded in­side, but it all ended badly for Schrager and Rubell, who were sent to prison for tax eva­sion. But be­fore they went, Liza Min­nelli and Diana Ross sang them a duet at a farewell party. Talk about go­ing down in style.

Go­ing down in­flames: Hered­i­tary is fan­tas­tic un­til it falls into the usual hor­ror movie traps

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