Cru­elly ef­fec­tive hor­rors abound

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - BACKYARD BANTER -

On the ex­clu­sive out­skirts of an un­named Amer­i­can city, an old woman has died.

From the tone of the eu­logy at her fu­neral – de­liv­ered by her adult daugh­ter – she was a bit of a night­mare to live with and no­body, not even in her own fam­ily, is too heart­bro­ken to see the back of her.

Back home, daugh­ter An­nie (Toni Col­lette) and hus­band Steve (Gabriel Byrne) restart their lives.

An­nie is an artist, con­struct­ing in­cred­i­bly de­tailed minia­tures of the rooms and houses she vis­its for an up­com­ing ex­hi­bi­tion. Son Peter is in high school and 11-year-old daugh­ter Char­lie is just be­gin­ning to cause trou­ble.

An­nie won­ders at just how much in­flu­ence her mother has had on Char­lie, who was very much the old woman’s favourite. And pretty soon a se­quence of dis­turb­ing events causes An­nie to won­der if her mother is reach­ing out to Char­lie from be­yond the grave.

Hered­i­tary has a clas­sic setup. The film tog­gles be­tween teas­ing at a su­per­nat­u­ral ex­pla­na­tion and the pos­si­bil­ity that An­nie – who has an ill-de­fined his­tory of men­tal ill­ness – is caus­ing, or imag­in­ing ev­ery­thing that seems to be hap­pen­ing.

An unusu­ally ef­fec­tive and blunt first act leads to a truly shock­ing mo­ment – one com­pletely un­spoiled by the trailer – and Hered­i­tary rolls on as an un­even, but like­able way to spend a few hours.

Hered­i­tary is at its most cru­elly ef­fec­tive when it seems to be de­mon­is­ing de­men­tia and de­pres­sion. It’s a prob­lem­atic and old-fash­ioned sto­ry­line to ped­dle, and nat­u­rally it can’t last. But Col­lette is just so darned good at play­ing delu­sional with a side-order of psy­cho­pathic, the pos­si­bil­ity seems too se­duc­tive to waste.

When Hered­i­tary swerves into a purely su­per­nat­u­ral/cult ‘‘ex­pla­na­tion’’ of what’s been un­fold­ing on screen, the shark is thor­oughly jumped and Iwasn’t the only per­son laugh­ing.

By that time though, you prob­a­bly will have had too much fun to re­ally care. Any film that man­ages to evoke both Pet Se­matary and The Wicker Man is def­i­nitely the work of awriter and di­rec­tor who has been to the well and learned the genre like he should.

Writer-di­rec­tor Ari Aster’s great­est as­set is Col­lette, at her most for­mi­da­bly de­ranged here, and pretty much car­ry­ing the film alone through long stretches when credulity is buck­ling un­der con­trivance.

Gabriel Byrne is so un­der­em­ployed I be­lieve the film could have been stronger, more claus­tro­pho­bic and height­ened had Col­lette be­ing play­ing a sin­gle mother – in an in­verse of The Sixth Sense and Babadook dy­namic – with no hus­band around to pro­vide an es­cape valve. Al­most ev­ery­thing Byrne con­trib­utes could have been taken up by Alex Wolff’s teenage son and maybe a lov­able, dis­pos­able neigh­bour for a few mo­ments to­wards the end.

As young daugh­ter Char­lie, first-time film ac­tor Mil­lie Shapiro is also pretty as­ton­ish­ing.

Hered­i­tary is not ‘‘this gen­er­a­tion’s The Ex­or­cist’’. It’s not even close. It’s at least 10 min­utes too long, the end­ing is far too silly to give the film any en­dur­ing power and the un­der­pin­ning idea lacks the rigour and in­tent of any re­ally great hor­ror.

But Hered­i­tary is still a good time, and it de­liv­ers your money’s worth of jumps and lu­nacy. - Graeme Tuck­ett

Toni Col­lette is at her most for­mi­da­bly de­ranged in Hered­i­tary.

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