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HEREDITARY (2018) (Read 649 times)
Jun 14th, 2018 at 2:28pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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SF Rocks

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*****
 
Ari Aster's Directorial debut is an intense, disquieting horror thriller. It commences mainly as straightforward drama with its tale of a dysfunctional family with creepy elements folded in slowly. The death of family matriarch Ellen sets off the chain of events. At the funeral, we are introduced to her daughter Annie (Toni Collette) and her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and children, daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) and son Peter (Alex Wolff).

The movie builds slowly and steadily, becoming an uncomfortably grueling exercise in family dysfunction. Two specific incidents spark a turn in the story towards horror, one internal, the other external. Even then, Director Aster ratchets up the horror elements at a deliberate pace. Once the machinations get truly revealed is where the story problems coalesce. The build up wounds the viewer into knots, but the payoff gets progressively less and less interesting.

I hate to be equivocal, but HERIDITARY is that kind of movie. General audiences who infamously gave the movie a D+ Cinemascore opening night will likely have already emotionally bailed on the movie by the last act, but, even those who hung in there will likely be split by how the movie resolves.

Not equivocal is Collette's performance. A performance so good that it lingers even when the movie is, unfortunately,  taken largely out of her character's control. Too many coincidences and outside forces have to intervene to drive the plot (not to mention an incredulous lack of interest by the cops and social services). Still, Collette is so strong, she binds the movie even as it spins towards some dubious places. The rest of the cast is fine, including Ann Dowd as a woman Annie meets during a grief counseling session. The audio mix and music provide an atmospheric backdrop. The photography, while well lit and framed, isn't as impressive in its digital rendering (and the less said about the CGI flames, the better). Aster uses a lot of Doll House imagery (Annie is an artist who specializes in that form), but it never truly pays off (again here, some of the Digital photography makes even some of the 'real' settings look like CGI fakery - intentionally or not). 

In the end, HERIDITARY is a mixed bag. Undoubtedly disturbing on one hand, but, losing control of its narrative on the other. Without delving into spoilers, I will just say that the plot machinations should have remained steadfastly 'All In The Family'. In other words, it should have adhered closely to its very title.
 
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