Toni Col­lette’s ‘Hered­ity’ has scary DNA

The Korea Times - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Colin Covert (Tri­bune News Ser­vice)

Are you ready for the year’s scari­est movie? I don’t think you are, not at all.

With the in­de­pen­dent hor­ror fea­ture “Hered­i­tary,” out­siders tight on bud­get but rich on tal­ent have cre­ated an in­stant clas­sic of vis­ceral ten­sion. The film is a nerve-jan­gling goose bumps de­liv­ery sys­tem more ef­fec­tive than any fright film a ma­jor stu­dio has served up since “The Ex­or­cist” or “Rose­mary’s Baby.” It feels like a haunted house story from the va­cant, quiet open­ing shots, but it is much, much more.

Ari Aster, who wrote and di­rected, stays close to clas­sic craft, cre­at­ing two hours of pri­mal fear with­out mind­less jump-jolts, pos­sessed cell­phones, slash­ers or phan­toms caught on home se­cu­rity video. Aster, mak­ing his first fea­ture-length film, knows that mak­ing us await the ter­ri­fy­ing is more fright­en­ing than ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it. And when the fears do ar­rive, they are all the more ex­cru­ci­at­ing be­cause we have fol­lowed the tick­ing countdown to doom with grow­ing woe.

This film fo­cuses on a woman’s psy­chic fix­a­tion on old emo­tional scars, dig­ging deep into the fears that lurk be­low our con­scious­ness from child­hood un­til our fi­nal days. Tech­ni­cally sub­tle yet ro­bust, the movie can turn a gloomy home cor­ri­dor that feels a bit too long into a worry that will elec­trify the hairs on your neck. The in­te­rior cin­e­matog­ra­phy is dim but not murky, the edit­ing el­e­gantly un­der­stated and the score un­set­tling with­out over­done, churn­ing vol­ume.

The less you know of the plot, the bet­ter, but here are some gen­eral facts: The movie cen­ters on the Gra­ham fam­ily, liv­ing on a com­fort­able pri­vate spread of the ru­ral Amer­i­can West with many mem­o­ries, few of them happy.

The cou­ple came to par­ent­hood some­what late in their lives, largely be­cause An­nie (Toni Col­lette in an in­tensely phys­i­cal per­for­mance) can barely deal with her own trou­bled child­hood with a dom­i­neer­ing, deeply dif­fi­cult mother. An­nie has be­come an artist of some renown, whose fas­tid­i­ous doll house minia- tures re­flect the hand­some look and dark sensibility of her own res­i­dence. Her late mother lived there in fail­ing health for years, and now re­mains an un­wel­come trove of mem­o­ries to An­nie even af­ter death.

An­nie’s kind, pa­tient hus­band Steve (Gabriel Byrne) re­mains sup­port­ive of his wife’s emo­tional rises and falls, hoping to main­tain a tol­er­a­ble life for their not-so-in­no­cent chil­dren. The more typ­i­cal of the two kids, a stan­dard blend of solid stu­dent and pot­head, is Peter (ver­sa­tile Alex Wolff, out­stand­ing as a Bos­ton Marathon bomber in “Pa­tri­ots Day” and a punk rock wiseguy in “The House of To­mor­row”). More prob­lem­atic is 14-year-old daugh­ter Char­lie (Milly Shapiro, whose atyp­i­cal looks are used to telling dra­matic ef­fect).

As we get to know the fam­ily, it be­comes clear that each one is an odd­ball. Char­lie, in her close-to-child­like state, feels less in­ter­est than the oth­ers in hid­ing the fact. Like her mother, she cre­ates art to ex­press her feel­ings, but it in­volves grotesque ma­te­ri­als like de­cap­i­tated birds’ heads.

The san­est strange per­son in the uni­formly su­perb cast is Joan, a woman who em­braces An­nie af­ter a tragedy drives her fur­ther from the col­laps­ing wreck­age of her life. Ann Dowd, in­fin­itely creepy in “The Hand­maid’s Tale,” here is whole­some, car­ing and sen­si­tive to An­nie’s be­reave­ment, with a spir­i­tual sug­ges­tion for her self-care, ex­plain­ing that any­one can be a medium.

When spine-chilling shock tac­tics ap­pear — and, lordy, do they ap­pear — they bear un­lim­ited, un­ex­pected men­ace. There are hor­ri­fy­ing spir­its or ghosts or some­thing here, though they may be pro­duced by the char­ac­ters’ imag­i­na­tions, ter­ri­ble dreams or telepa­thy. Blur­ring the line be­tween re­al­ity and fan­tasy doesn’t weaken the film’s richly am­bigu­ous tone; it deep­ens it.

What seems dis­turbingly hon­est is the fea­ture’s in­ti­ma­tions of grief, guilt, re­jec­tion and child pathol­ogy. Then, fol­low­ing an hour of ev­ery­day dread, it walks us unto the mouth of mad­ness, and all bets are off. “Hered­i­tary” shows what Jean Paul Sartre re­ally meant by “hell is other peo­ple.”

Tri­bune News

Toni Col­lette in “Hered­i­tary”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Korea, Republic

© PressReader. All rights reserved.