May 24, 2018

GENRE | 'Hereditary' Terrorizes Toni Collette x Rupture

Toni Collette Ari Aster | Hereditary

The less said about Hereditary, filmmaker Ari Aster's feature-length film debut, the better. Aster's supernatural-tinged thriller about family secrets is methodically constructed to maximize suspense with a pervasive sense of eerie creepiness throughout.

Toni Collette as the unnerving but sympathetic Annie seems perfectly suited for the role of an exasperated middle-aged mother desperate to keep her family together while ridding herself both literal and figurative ghosts of the past and some other lingering demons. There are echoes of M. Night Shamylan's early work and style like The Sixth Sense that notably also featured Collette as the mother of a troubled son.

Annie's family is filled with psychologically complex and somewhat appropriately baffling performances. Her husband (Gabriel Byrne) is stoic, unusually reasonable, and a fine straightman for the slowburn chaos around his family.

Young actor Alex Wolff is suitably scared sh*tless as their pothead son perpetually confused and grieving the unexplained madness around him. To contrast, newcomer Milly Shapiro provides an unsettling performance as their socially awkward daughter with an unusual connection to her deceased grandmother.

Toni Collette Ari Aster | Hereditary

While not perfect—there's some extremely clunky exposition throughout—Aster's patience and deliberate filmmaking choices are stunningly adept around every terrifying corner. Even the odd combination of actors who look and sound nothing alike despite being related to each other as a family of characters somehow works as the low-key yet manic performances serve the material ever so dramatically.

Full of miniature imagery, cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski's lens builds some incredible tension through carefully framed, extended shots that heighten the slow-moving family drama deftly. Intense and unpredictable, the seeds of acts of horror make the story so methodically disturbing as Aster dissects rituals and secrets through multiple aspects of death, grief, and worship.

Filled with dread, the unsettling film is so meticulously constructed as the slow but complete unravelling of a family after the death of their grandmother using a history of mental illness to undo our own sense of familial baggage. It's full of domestic escalation that is completely unnerving yet disturbingly exhilarating to watch.

Hereditary screens as part of the inaugural Rupture festival and the Vancouver International Film Centre's year-round Altered States (ALT) programming on May 26th at Vancity Theatre.


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