What to watch this week
Horror. With Toni Collette, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro. Director: Ari Aster. 16DHLNV. Miniaturist artist Annie Graham (Collette) lives with her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne), their teenage son, Peter (Wolff), and 13-year-old daughter, Charlie (Shapiro). After her mother’s death Annie’s grief is intensified by a series of tragic events that follow. As the family’s anguish pushes them to the edge, dark secrets are unravelled as their ancestry comes to light. But the more they try to outrun their sinister fate, the closer they get to their inherited doom.
Aster’s debut feature is wildly unsettling and unpredictable – to a fault. Picture this: you’re in the middle of a terrifying nightmare, pulse racing and skin clammy from a cold sweat.
Suddenly your alarm goes off and in flows Billy Ray Cyrus’ Achy Breaky Heart. The ditty permeates your dream, shifting the tone from grim and manic to utterly absurd. This is the essence of Hereditary’s third act.
Fortunately the build-up to this point more than makes up for this odd finale. Everything from the mesmerising visuals to the chilling sound design and camera angles is beautifully crafted to exploit the viewer’s growing dread and disorientation.
Most notable are the cast’s captivating performances, with their characters the perfect field guides to the wide-ranging maze of emotions the film takes you through. It’s not quite this generation’s The Exorcist (1973), as many critics have declared, but this deeply unnerving experience is praiseworthy in its own right.
Disturbed (from left): Milly Shapiro, Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne and Alex Wolff play a family falling apart in Hereditary.