Andrea's Unsolicited Review: HEREDITARY

It's probably about time that I put my Facebook reviews on my blog. Seems like a bit of a waste to not do so. I mean, I have a whole blog and everything!

But let's get serious. Most horror gurus enjoy all forms of horror stories, from books to film. The horror genre in film has certainly had its ups and downs, but I find that the films that last are the ones that contain the most important element: a good story. Time and time again, I am drawn to story over gore, story over gross out, story over jump scares. The other pieces can just add to it.

(But don't get me wrong...I like a good hack-n-slash film as well. I'll talk about some of those in the future.)

So, without further ado, I will present the first of Andrea's Unsolicited Reviews directly on my blog.

Written by Ari Aster
Starring Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, and Alex Wolff
Directed by Ari Aster

I just saw this film tonight. I came out of it truly shocked, stunned and overwhelmed. I got myself some frozen yogurt and headed home for a warm bath to shake the willies out of me. I realize that not only did this film terrify me, it flat out upset me. I was so upset at one point that I was shaking, my heart was racing, and my stomach was tied in knots.

The film begins with the death of an elderly woman. Her daughter, Annie (Toni Collette), is delivering a eulogy at her funeral. We understand this was a hard death for Annie, and probably even harder for her daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro). But this death just seems...wrong.

The story continues as we learn that this family already had a lot of issues before the death of Annie's mother, and her death seems to be making things worse. This leads us into a descent into madness, but we're not sure if it really is madness or if what we're witnessing is actually happening. Things just get worse and worse to a point where I thought to myself how can this continue to be so bad? Who's at fault here? This is not just a movie about a family unable to deal with their private issues. It's about dealing with mental illness and discovering horrifying secrets, kept and revealed in so many different ways that truly shock the audience.

This film relies heavily on sound, color and lighting, so be sure to see it in the theatre. Some of the sounds were more horrifying to me than the visuals, and harder to deal with. You will see patterns emerge, but sometimes you'll never be able to guess what's coming next. I think that's where the horror truly comes from--I never would've guessed what was going to happen in each scene, and I knew that I wasn't going to like it because of the tone and atmosphere included within the scene. The slow build yet sharp shocks throughout the story made me feel as if I was being forced to watch this movie rather than having made the choice to see it. Yet I had to know what was going on, no matter how uncomfortable I felt.

I didn't know it was possible for Toni Collette to top her own work. This woman needs to be nominated for an Oscar for her work in this film. She was nominated in 2000 for her work in The Sixth Sense (1999), and she deserves it again. I think Toni is most powerful when she is in films that challenge our psyche and the story pushes her character to the absolute limit. This film is a keen example of her ability.

I didn't know that Gabriel Byrne was in this film, so I was very excited to see him. And as is his way, a superb performance. Always in the background, always trying to fix things, his character goes through some real heartache that we don't really notice until it's honestly nearly too late. (Horror fans will remember Gabriel from Stigmata, End of Days and Ghost Ship.)

The children are both amazing. Alex Wolff was one of the four kids who got sucked into the game in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that his abilities far exceed a fun adventure romp. I will enjoy seeing more of him. He really amazed me at his ability to go from a regular teenager with all the expected attitude to a truly terrified, frightened child who is completely lost. This is Milly's first film, but she is an accomplished Broadway actress. She deserves at least an Oscar nod for her work in this film. We're never really sure if she's got a mental instability or what, but her bizarre actions are a reflection of how her mother and grandmother treated her. I believe Milly's abilities are going to take her far.

Overall, Hereditary is exactly what quality horror should be. It terrorizes us on a psychological level, making us angry and upset and shake in our boots. For people who only rely on jump scares or chainsaw-wielding murderers to get you scared, you might not enjoy this movie. But for those of us who rely on a strong story that gets under our skin, this film is perfect.

No matter what, though, you won't hear a tongue click the same way again. *tlock*

Recommendations like Hereditary:

The VVitch (2015)

The Babadook (2014)