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Sunday, June 17, 2018


(Toni Collette)

This is an effective horror movie that avoids using the clichés that make up the typical “fright night” formula. But make no mistake, you’ll leave the auditorium with a deep-lying chill running down your spine. (Review by Patrick Compton - 8/10)

Horror movies usually deal in external, usually supernatural, threats to the family, the group or the individual. By contrast, Hereditary looks for its darkness within the confines of the American family.

Indeed, for much of its running length, this two-hour film, very capably written and directed by Ari Aster, could be interpreted naturalistically; in other words, the disturbing things that happen can be explained away in terms of the toxic psychological waste of an unhappy family that has suffered more than its fair share of “normal” misery.

The story revolves around Annie (a brilliant performance from Toni Collette), a mother of two who designs dolls houses. She is deeply concerned that she can’t mourn the death of her recently dead mother although she does acknowledge that she was an intensely private woman, possessed of “private rituals”. So although scene after scene in the movie can be read as straight drama, there is a whispering sense that maybe something else – something sinister – is gradually playing itself out.

Annie’s daughter, the creepy Charlie (Milly Shapiro), is clearly disturbed, snipping the head off a dead pigeon for her entertainment, and generally appearing beyond the reach of normal intimacy. Without giving anything away, one of the scariest sounds in the film is the klokk sound she makes when she habitually flicks her tongue down from the roof of her mouth.

The other members of the family are Annie’s fairly normal son, Peter (Alex Wolff), and her somewhat peripheral husband, Steve, played by a sombre Gabriel Byrne. Both will play their respective parts in the drama to come.

Beyond the clammy confines of the family and their uncomfortable home, Annie secretly attends a therapy group that tries to help people mourning the recent dead. Here she meets Joan (Ann Dowd) who introduces her to the possibility of handling her grief by psychically communing with the dead beloved.

Storyline aside, three of the movie’s undoubted strengths are the force of the cast, with Collette a particularly powerful presence, the director's largely subtle control of his material and the eerie soundtrack that creeps up on you. Hereditary may not quite deliver the crude shocks that a multiplex audience would like, but its effect is more insidious, and more lasting.

Hereditary opened in Durban on Friday, June 15, 2018. – Patrick Compton