Classy shocker is flam­ing good fun

Daily Star Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

AF­TER years in the dol­drums, the hor­ror movie seems to be mak­ing a come­back.

M Night Shya­malan re­turned to the genre last year with Split, there’s a new Hal­loween on the way and Get Out even made an ap­pear­ance at the Os­cars.

Now this beau­ti­fully shot, bril­liantly acted and smartly writ­ten su­per­nat­u­ral chiller looks set to usher in a new golden age of scary movies.

Be­fore I get car­ried away, I should point out that Hereditary of­fers very dif­fer­ent types of chills to re­cent series like Saw, In­sid­i­ous or Annabelle.

There is no tor­ture scene, no jump scares, no ill-ad­vised trips into a dark base­ment. And at no point does an an­tique chil­dren’s toy sud­denly spring into life.

First-time di­rec­tor Ari Aster is in­flu­enced by an older kind of film – the gritty, fam­ily hor­ror of the late 60s and early 70s.

Like The Ex­or­cist, The Omen and Rose­mary’s Baby, Hereditary takes its time get­ting round to the su­per­nat­u­ral.

Toni Col­lette plays An­nie Gra­ham, a deeply trou­bled artist who con­structs minia­ture mod­els of build­ings in her at­tic studio.

Her mother has just died in the up­stairs bed­room, leav­ing a col­lec­tion of strange books about the spirit world.

In a pow­er­ful speech at a sup­port group (the writ­ing and act­ing here is shock­ingly good for a hor­ror film) An­nie re­veals a fam­ily his­tory of men­tal ill­ness and re­lates how her mother sub­jected her to years of emo­tional abuse.

This could be why she is find­ing it hard to grieve and ne­glect­ing her two chil­dren by hid­ing in her studio.

Her minia­ture world, it seems, is the only realm she can con­trol.

The hor­ri­ble old lady seems to have had a very neg­a­tive ef­fect on An­nie’s fam­ily. And when her haunted-look­ing daugh­ter sees a pi­geon crash into her class­room win­dow, she nips out and cuts its head off with scis­sors.

She adds it to a weird col­lec­tion of totems she seems to be amass­ing. When she ap­pears to spot granny alive and well, we won­der whether this is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the spirit world or the old fam­ily curse. Her stoner son Peter (Alex Wolff), mean­while, seems to be strangely de­tached from granny’s death.

But all is not well be­tween him and his odd mother. And when An­nie starts con­tact­ing the other side, the laid­back father (Gabriel Byrne) sus­pects his wife has fi­nally de­scended into mad­ness.

To say any more would spoil the fun. But af­ter the first shock (one of the grimmest scenes I’ve ever seen in a hor­ror movie), the slow build-up be­gins to pay off.

If we hadn’t be­come so in­vested in these char­ac­ters, the sec­ond half of the film would ap­pear laugh­ably over-the-top.

But here, the su­per­nat­u­ral feels hor­ri­bly real.

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