Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Hereditary - The Modern Exorcist

For those who know me, I am a sucker for any kind of horror movie. I consider myself a horror connoisseur. When I first saw the previews for this movie back in February, I was hooked. Hereditary gave me The Exorcist vibes with a touch of an M. Night Shyamalan twist. Reading other critiques beforehand, my standards were set pretty high. My expectations were exceeded. Our story begins with an average family who has recently lost their grandmother. Charlie (Milly Sharpiro) is a thirteen-year old girl and her grandmother's favorite. Charlie seems to have signs of some mental illness although it is never stated directly. She tends to keep by herself with strange ticks and makes dolls. After coping with the loss of the grandmother, the family loses Charlie in a car accident. The son, Peter (Alex Wolff), tries to rush Charlie to the hospital after Charlie goes into anaphylaxis at a party only for her to put her head out the window and get decapitated. The whole scene is as messed up and disgusting as it sounds. Toni Collette (Annie) gives a stunning performance as a grieving mother who wants to do anything to bring her daughter back. In a last ditch effort she tries to be a medium and contact Charlie directly. While this is a horror cliche, a major pet peeve of mine, director Ari Aster succeeds in a tasteful way. Aster orchestrates a horror masterpiece with predictable concepts by the us of artistic camera angles and subtle horror sequences. Annie, for example, designs miniatures (i.e., doll houses) of her life. Many of the scenes and transitions are depicted from the view point of the miniature on which she is working. Perhaps what made this movie so disturbing is how different grief was portrayed. Peter seems to try to live normally while being numb and breaking down in private. Steve (Gabriel Byrne), the father, is just trying to make things normal in the household. Meanwhile, Annie is falling apart. These contrasting coping mechanisms create conflict both externally among characters and internally as well. If halfway through the movie you are not convinced that this movie is truly terrifying, the ending is worth the wait. The ending is predictable but is executed well because of its disturbing factor. I found myself mouthing "WTF" at least three times at the end.  Jump scares and showing scary scenes abundantly can change a great horror movie into a B-rated film. Ari Aster manages to create a horrific movie without the use of either. The horror scenes are so subtle that the suspense messes with your head. Many of the horror scenes take place in the periphery of the focal point creating a haunting and unsettling atmosphere. I don't want to give any spoilers away for those who haven't gotten the chance to see it, but the ending messed me up completely. I came out of the theater satisfied but with the same sense of uneasiness as the first time I saw The Exorcist. I tried my hardest to admit that I was not terrified after watching the movie, but I found myself sleeping with all the lights on and checking the backseat of my car repeatedly on my way to the gym at the break of dawn. While I would place Hereditary under a psychological thriller rather than horror, it definitely sets the standards high for future horror movies in this decade.

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