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.

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