A recent wave of original horror films from various independent studios has left a string of worthy additions to the canon in the eyes of genre enthusiasts, with particular favorites being The Witch, It Follows and The Babadook. Hereditary is undoubtedly another fine example of this successful streak, but it left me feeling more uncomfortable than thrilled by the experience, especially as the final moments reveal a much more conventional plot than was promised by the bewildering air of mystery surrounding the majority of the film. Not that there aren’t many good things to recommend here- Toni Collette being the biggest. Collette is astonishing actually, as a woman grieving the death of her mother, whose disturbing family history of psychosis is laid out early enough to make you question the reality of what you’re seeing onscreen, especially as the plot veers off in rather shocking directions. It’s difficult to talk about this movie without getting deep into spoiler territory, so suffice it too say that a particularly devastating plot development sends the movie in one direction, then jerks it towards another before barreling back on itself, never once allowing the audience a chance to figure out the truth of what may or may not be happening in this story. Some may find that unpredictability itself a thrill, and the discomfort and scares aroused in the audience are genuine and earned, through the uncertainty and the psychological torture being unloaded on this family. But the ultimate reveal is less creative than you might have seen coming and something of a disappointment, while the feeling of being jerked around through the plot is rather unpleasant, given the extremely gruesome setup. Still, writer-director Ari Aster shows real skill in his feature debut, and gets a remarkable performance out of Toni Collette, who may be the best reason to see the film.
WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? * * * (Dir. Morgan Neville)