Thursday, February 28, 2019

HEREDITARY 2018

"When you get older there isn't a lot left to be frightened of."
Mrs. Ada Quonsett  Airport (1970)

I was an easy scare as a kid. Afraid of the dark as well as my own shadow, I posed little challenge to older sisters who loved to leap out at me from closets and around corners; their shouts of “Boo!” eliciting a shriek of terror or tearful outburst (often both), followed by the usual threat-yelled-in-retreat, “I’m gonna tell mamma!”
Paradoxically, when not being terrorized by siblings, I did a pretty good job of terrorizing myself. I'm not sure why, but being a dyed-in-the-wool scaredy-cat proved no deterrent to raiding my sister's horror comic book collection (resulting in nightmare-filled bouts of sleeping with the bedcovers pulled all the way over my head), or watching scary anthology TV shows like Thriller or The Outer Limits. Programs that taught me no good can come of exploring the source of a mysterious noise and that fear comes with its own soundtrack. Just hearing the first few notes of Gounod's Funeral March of the Marionette (aka, the theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents) was enough to make my skin go all gooseflesh. Similarly, John Williams’ nerve-jangling Suspense Theater theme, and that hair-raising whistling intro to Journey to the Unknown.
Toni Collette as Annie Graham
Gabriel Byrne as Steve Graham

Naturally, this masochistic desire to have the bejesus scared out of me extended to movies, too, but by the time big-screen psychological thrillers replaced the atomic monsters and vampires of Saturday afternoon TV,  I'd developed a better understanding of what I was after: the emotional jolt of the safe, vicarious scare. The payoff being that my naturally jittery nature meant that I got more bang for my buck.

I came to enjoy the sensation of sitting in the dark and surrendering myself to whatever reality these films presented; the deeper I immersed myself, the more thrilling the ride. But with the waning of the 1960s, the make-believe horrors of movies like Wait Until Dark (“What did they want with her? What did they want with her?” screamed the film's poster ad copy to my abject terror) and Rosemary’s Baby (“What have you done to its eyes?”) couldn't keep pace with the real-life terrors served up every night on the TV news. Fiction proved no match for the horrific reality of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy; the unsolved mystery of the Zodiac Killer; or the nightmare of the Manson Family. When feeling frightened turned became a way of life instead of an escapist outlet, I knew it was time to give horror movies a rest.
Alex Wolff as Peter Graham
Then came the '70s, and with it, a whole slew of new-fangled sources of anxiety: Watergate, the Vietnam War, inflation. All leading me to reflect on the inadequacy of Roosevelt's oft paraphrased "There's nothing to fear, but fear itself." No, fear itself is plenty to be afraid of. With civilization edging ever closer to resembling those disaster films that were so popular at the time, I once again found myself seeking the sanctuary of scary movies. Happily, the '70s presented no shortage of films offering ample opportunities for primal scream venting: The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976),  Burnt Offerings (1976), and The Sentinel (1977).
Milly Shapiro as Charlie Graham
While I don’t tend to think of myself as a horror movie fan, I obviously consumed enough of them to start to take notice of the cliches, the repetition, and the recycling of themes. Instead of offering up the unanticipated and disturbing, horror movies began to pander to their audiences by following boxoffice-driven guidelines geared to giving the horror fan everything they expected.
The more market-friendly horror movies became, the more they needed to resemble product. Goodbye, to the unexpected, hello to by-the-numbers horror plotting and slasher villains armed with quotable quips and taglines.
The Graham Home
As haunting a presence in Hereditary as The Overlook Hotel in The Shining

Which is a shame, because now that I'm no longer the easily-scared kid I used to be, finding a horror movie that gets me to believe in the unbelievable is hard enough; finding one that's actually frightening is becoming a near-impossibility. Gore, jump-edits, loud noises, and a heavy metal song played over the closing credits does not a horror film make (which should come as news to Elie Roth and Rob Zombie). For a film to really scare me, it at least has to come from a place emotionally real. Hopefully while tapping into some elemental, suppressed anxiety rooted in human vulnerability and the fear of mortality.
Ann Dowd as Joan
Two recent films effectively and memorably accomplished such a feat. The first was in 2017 when Get Out, the impressive feature film debut of director/screenwriter Jordan Peele, hit me where I lived by using the daily microaggressions of soft-racism as the core of its horror premise. The second time was in 2018 when director Ari Aster, another emerging filmmaking talent, made his directing / screenwriting debut with Hereditary. While Get Out was unsettling in a thoroughly unique and personal way (the Black experience of racism as terrorism has always been ripe fodder for the horror genre), Hereditary bridged the above-stated "near-impossibility" gap by reacquainting me with the almost-forgotten, old-fashioned, pleasurable unpleasantness of simply being scared shitless by a motion picture. 
The Dollhouse Effect
Hereditary manipulates the viewer's sense of perception. Many scenes begin with our being 

uncertain as to whether we're witnessing real-life, or merely looking at one of Annie's miniatures. 

I came to Hereditary not knowing anything about the story, all I knew is that it was a movie starring Toni Collette, an actress (like laura Dern) I can watch in anything. I’d just finished binge-watching Collette's limited BBC One series Wanderlust on Netflix, and her extraordinary performance in that program left me clamoring for more. Always intrigued when an actor of her caliber appears in a horror movie, I purposely avoided reading anything about Hereditary beforehand, preferring to dive in blindly with eyes wide open, curiosity piqued, and with a great deal of enthusiasm.
I wasn’t disappointed.
In fact, I’m not even sure it's possible to be disappointed by Hereditary, for it's a film that has as its primary, defining characteristic, a dogged refusal to deliver anything remotely resembling the expected.
Portrait in Black

The death of a family matriarch is the catalyst event sparking an interlinked eruption of remorse, reflection, and revelation that ultimately sends an already loosely-tethered family spiraling horrifically out of control. Annie (Toni Collette), whose mother it was died in hospice after a long, grasping illness, is an artist whose method of coping with her traumatic childhood is to recreate the most painful events in breathtakingly disturbing miniature dioramas. And with a history involving a mother who suffered from dissociative identity disorder; a clinically depressed father who starved himself to death; and an older brother with committed suicide when she was just a teenager, Annie is not exactly at a loss for traumas to draw upon for her work.
Small Worlds
Understandably, Annie's family legacy of mental illness hasn't left her unscathed. In fact, her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) is the psychiatrist who saw her through a nervous breakdown. No longer his patient and largely managing to handle her issues with her late mother, a dark cloud hangs over the family due to a terrifying sleepwalking incident two years prior, in which Annie doused herself and her two sleeping children in paint thinner, awakening only as she heard herself striking a match. As a result, Annie's relationship with her now 16-year-old son Peter (Alex Wolff) has grown strained and contentious, while her 13-year-old developmentally disabled daughter Charlie—who shared an unnaturally close relationship to her deceased grandmother—also channels her emotional dissociation into creating art. In her case, the creation of creepy, pagan-like figurines.
Milly Shapiro
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Afflicted with a lethal allergy to nuts, Charlie's sweet tooth and love of chocolate
turns every member of the family into around-the-clock sentinels 

Hereditary presents us with a dysfunctional family caught in the aftermath of a tragedy. As each is faced with the difficult task of processing loss, a series of disturbing, seemingly random events threaten what appears to be the hard-won calm of the household. Charlie's bereavement over the loss of her beloved grandmother manifests in the peculiar concern that there is no one left to take care of her. Steve takes to drinking as he grows stressed and overburned with always having to be the family's steadying force. Peter, juggling complicated feelings of maternal mistrust, blame, and resentfulness, numbs himself with drugs. And Annie, anxious about her own sanity while plagued with guilt over what role, if any, her genes and history have played in the fates of her children. Sensitive to the stress all of this has already placed on her marriage, she isolates herself--both physically and emotionally--while suppressing resentment over feeling she has no one to whom she can unburden herself.
Intimate Strangers
What I like most about Hereditary is that it is essentially a dark family drama cloaked in a horror film. Using the constricted, hemmed-in spaces of dollhouses as a visual motif, the film presents us with a family coping with unbearable degrees of trauma, yet they persist in shutting themselves off from one another. And not because they want to; they simply are not equipped with the tools to do otherwise. Barely speaking, struggling to communicate when they do, each remains in their separate, insular spaces, victims of their own severely-flawed coping mechanisms. It's a rarity for a horror film to put human conflict and emotional so front and center, but the brilliance of Hereditary is that once the narrative dives off into almost grotesque levels of horror, our hard-earned investment in these characters makes everything that happens all the more terrifying.
Contents Under Pressure
Like the sinister sculpture perched near the stairwell of the Graham house--another of Annie’s grim works of art, it’s a depiction of three deteriorating houses sinking, one atop the other, deep into the bowels of the earth--Hereditary presents us with a family enveloped in personality pathology sinking under the weight of the kind of crisis and catastrophe that's worthy of Greek Tragedy. As horrific events multiply and natural threats take on a preternatural cast, the film's pervading atmosphere of dread makes even the most startling, mind-bending developments feel somehow inevitable.
Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, and Alex Wolff
Don't Be Afraid


WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
When film critic Pauline Kael titled her 1965 collection of reviews I Lost it at The Movies, she was (wittily) referencing the subtle loss of innocence that happens each time one watches a film. It's a slow maturing process that begins with being so unfamiliar with the vocabulary of film, everything elicits a strong response because it is all so fresh and new. As we grow more accustomed to the tropes of narrative and film's visual language, our experience of moviegoing becomes more enriched, but often at the cost of our ever really being able to recapture that sense of awe and astoundment born of our movie innocence. I readily admit that each new film I see brings with it the hope of reclaiming a trace of that lost innocence. Even if it's only for the length of one scene.
Hereditary brought a lot of those feelings back for me. Everything about the film seemed to catch me off guard. So much so that watching it became a little unnerving for me. It brought back that long-forgotten sense of feeling on edge long after a film had ended, my mind carrying around a kind of vague apprehension that produced an over-awareness of noises and a wariness of shadows.
Milly Shapiro and Toni Collette
"You never even cried as a baby- you know that? Not even when you were born."

A movie like Hereditary makes suspension of disbelief terribly easy, for in addition to it being skilled at keeping the viewer off-balance, it's a story told on its own terms, in its own unique voice, and benefits from a distinct, fully-realized world view. And in a horror film landscape increasingly dominated by the boxoffice-friendly predictability of franchises, a movie as audaciously bizarre and off-the-rails as Hereditary feels like a revitalization of the genre. 
The visual motif of low ceilings, narrow corridors, and confined spaces reinforce themes of emotional confinement and the notion that the Grahams (by virtue of heredity) are manipulated like dolls in a dollhouse by fate.

With each frame crammed to overflowing with information, clues, and foreshadowing, Hereditary is a film that practically demands a second viewing. If only to discover all the pieces of the puzzle that had been laid out, hidden in plain sight, from the first go-round.
Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne


PERFORMANCES
It's an accepted fact that horror films, like comedies, rarely get any respect come awards season. For every Sissy Spacek Best Actress nomination for Carrie (1976) or Ellen Burstyn for The Exorcist (1973), there are far too many Mia Farrow (Rosemary's Baby - 1968) - Deborah Kerr (The Innocents - 1961) snubs.
Toni Collette, all exposed nerve endings and bottled-up tensions, gives the performance of her career in Hereditary. She's so inarguably brilliant, her being passed over for an Oscar nomination feels more like a voter response to what can charitably be called a "difficult" film, than an oversight regarding one of the most compelling screen performances of the year.
Hereditary boasts superb and sensitive performances from its entire cast, but Toni Collette pushes waaaay beyond the usual boundaries, inhabiting a complicated, dimensional characterization. Equally impressive, to a heartbreaking degree, is Alex Wolff as the son. Not since Timothy Hutton's agonized (and Oscar-winning, I'd like to point out) performance in Ordinary People (1980) have I seen such a movingly recognizable depiction of adolescent grief. There's an unforgettable moment in Hereditary where Wolff, at a point in the story when family relationships are at a peak-deterioration point, is sitting silently in his car trying to muster up the courage to simply enter the house. It's a heart-wrenching example of the way Ari Aster manages to somehow make the small moments pay off as powerfully as the large-scale.


THE STUFF OF FANTASY
Singular-vision films like Hereditary and Get Out--both amplifications of the day-to-day terrors of life contemporary--do a great job of injecting some much-needed vitality and blood (literally) into a genre grown anemic over the years of tapping into the same worn-out vein of horror tradition. It took Aster five years to get Hereditary to the screen, directing from his own screenplay, and, from all accounts, finalizing every detail of the production before even a foot of film was shot. The end result is one of the most effectively scary horror films I've ever seen. An uncompromising work of individuality that still manages to pluck the nerves of universal anxieties. 
Annie's art installation dioramas were created by Steve Newburn, Hereditary's stunning production design by Grace Yun. Everything from Colin Stetson's shivery musical score to cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski's eerily burnished images--which, when combined with Aster's sculptural blocking and emphatic use of stillness, turns the characters into mannequins--work in concert to formulate Hereditary's blue-hued world of haunted interiors.
The members of the Graham family move about from one isolated space to another. Even when they leave the confines of their homes, they merely find new places to be alone.


THE STUFF OF DREAMS
 For me, the mark of a truly effective horror film, a quality evident in favorites like Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, or Don’t Look Now, has always been its ability to make me feel something for the characters. To get me to relate to and/or empathize with their circumstances to the degree that I care what happens and I’m engaged in whatever conflicts—emotional or psychological—arise.
In the equally-bereaved Joan, Annie finds someone outside of the home to whom she can confide.
Or has she? 

Horror films are hollow films if they don't feature characters with whom you can identify or situations whose outcomes you can become invested in. Hereditary goes to places that even fans of the genre find disturbing, but the darkness feels at one with the world Aster has created.
I don't know what kind of mind could come up with a move like Hereditary, let alone the genius capable of pulling it off so tremendously, but my hat is off to Ari Aster for taking so many chances and in the process reminding me what a thrill it is to be scared at the movies again. 
Unsafe Cinema
Nothing's more terrifying than a horror film that takes death, loss, and grief seriously


BONUS MATERIAL
Hereditary father and son Gabriel Byrne and Alex Wolff played father and son in the HBO series In Treatment from 2008 to 2010.
Psychologist Paul Weston and his son Max

Modern Family / Ordinary People 
The original cut of Hereditary ran 60-minutes longer than the theatrical release.
The original shooting script is available to read HERE

Copyright © Ken Anderson

17 comments:

  1. Ken-
    I can't tell you how excited I was to see that you had chosen to review Hereditary! Although one of the many pleasures of this blog is reading about films that I'm unfamiliar with and might not have been exposed to otherwise, I still love to hear your takes on movies that are near and dear to me, and Hereditary certainly falls into that camp- for all of the reasons you highlighted above. From the first time I saw the movie, I was convinced that Toni Collette's performance was too great for the Academy to overlook, but we all know how it goes. Since you touched on it here, I would be very interested to hear more of your thoughts on Get Out, which I found to be a smart and admirable debut feature, but nothing special and not worthy of its Oscar nominations (and win). Maybe it's just a personal thing, but it didn't "hook" me in the way that it seems to do with so many others.

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    1. Hi George
      Thanks so much for reading this. Thrilled to hear you were as impressed by HEREDITARY as I was. I've seen it three times and still keep noticing new things.

      True, it’s not often I feel strongly enough about a contemporary film to be compelled to write about it. In fact, when I look over the films I’ve covered on this site that bear the #2000s tag, I notice there seems to be a bit of a trend: NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, MAPS TO THE STARS, CARNAGE, BLACK SWAN, CLOSER. At first glance, it's clear they’re all movies that are a bit on the grim side, but the truth is they’re modern fils that come closest to evoking the feel of what I like in ‘70s films—human stories told with little regard for the “blockbuster” potential of the subject matter.

      I found HEREDITARY’s “family horror” dynamic such a refreshing take on the horror film, combining elements of the domestic drama, the occult thriller, and the conspiracy theory suspsenser. I really loved it.

      I’m amazed Toni Collette’s outstanding performance was overlooked, But I’m reminded of how often I encounter people who see ROSEMARY’S BABY and just naturally assume Mia Farrow was nominated for an Oscar, only to be stunned to know her brilliant work in that film was ignored by the Academy. But the Oscars has a history of getting it wrong more than they get it right (I think of overlooked folks like Ruby Dee, Barbara Harris, and Diana Sands).

      And I did so thoroughly love the film GET OUT and hope to write about it sometime. Contrary to what critics would like us to believe--that people are drawn to films because they are “good” (that’s a value judgment we apply later)---I think everyone likes or dislikes a film based on their personal tastes. For instance, so many of my gay friends thought CALL ME BY YOUR NAME to be this transcendent film. Me, I was livid while watching it and couldn’t wait for it to end.

      As per GET OUT; I’ve been watching films for over 50 years, and in that time I’ve grown used to not seeing my particular world view represented onscreen. Imagine someone suddenly proposing: “Ken, what if I made a horror movie about the small, subtle fear you felt growing up as the only back family in a neighborhood, being the only black person in your film class, the only black teacher at your job, the only black person at a part, the only black person at an Ingmar Bergman film festival, …” It goes on. All of those have been my reality.
      But I think very few white writer or directors would even imagine that “fear” and “terror” exists in those benevolent environments. But they do, and Jordan Peele got that and made a horror movie about it, and it was a movie …perhaps the first ever…made with Me in mind…and all those like me who rarely or never see their true feelings and lives dramatized onscreen.

      The above is a part of the GET OUT essay I've started and stopped twice! I’ll finish it someday, but I’m so enraged by the socio-political climate in America right now every essay draft turns into a manifesto, not a film analysis. So I’m waiting until my present disgust with America's ongoing love affair with racism subsides a bit before I tackle GET OUT.
      That might be quite quite a wait.

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  2. I feel strongly that you should see The Babadook.

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    1. OK! I see it's on Netflix, so will definitely give it a look. Like HEREDITARY and GET OUT, it's a promising sign that the film is another debut feature from a director/writer--Jennifer Kent. Looking forward to it. Thanks for the recommendation, Allen!

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    2. Babadook was good, God that kid was a brat. And the star is from Miss Fischer's Murder Mysteries. And it's Australian! I've seen heredity and liked it but boy did I miss most of the points you you were writing about, like the husband being her ex-therapist. I wanted to scream at Peter DON'T take you sister to a teen party! And WHOMP what a terrible terrible accident. I liked that it was set in a seldom used movie location, I'm assuming it was Colorado, and the horror element was actually very very horrible. Thanks for the enlightening essay. For whatever reason I seldom re-watch a movie aside from the Saturday marathons of the Twilight, Harry Potter and Hobbit series' but now I want to see what you are writing about. And, I guess I have a love/hate relationship with Toni. I've seen so many of her movies starting with Muriel's Wedding and find her peculiarly off-putting.

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    3. Allen Knutson
      Watched "Babadook" last night and loved it! I'm so impressed you keyed into precisely what I was describing I liked in "empathic horror"; it was creepy and pretty scary at a couple of spots, but I was also so moved by the characters that by the end I had major waterworks. Which is MARVELOUS to get from a horror movie. I go to the movies for an experience, and I absolutely love it when a movie can get me to feel something strongly about what's going on. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    4. Hello Loulou
      When "Babadook" began, that kid was really getting on my nerves, and then by the two thirds point, I felt there was a method to the director's madness: I was feeling as put upon, annoyed, and inconvenienced as the mother. By the time the twist of the Babadook comes in, I felt I had been almost psychologically primed to so empathize with the mother, that a true crisis of conflict had presented itself. Had the kid been a sweetheart from the start, I think the whole enterprise would have lost a complete, very provocative layer. Can't believe it's five years old. When you're not a horror fan, everything slips by you!

      As for HEREDITARY. That bit about Annie's husband being her ex-therapist is a bit of a cheat on my part. When I saw the film, the thought flashed through my mind based upon how he talks to her and is always so wary looking, but I took it for merely being a therapist being unable to turn off his professional demeanor at home.
      My suspicion was only confirmed after I read the original 3-hour version screenplay that I link at the end of the essay. The longer version has scenes that were cut out (or never filmed) making their past clearer.
      I can relate to your feeling like wanting to scream to the screen "DON'T" at various intervals. That's what always gets me about well-crafted thrillers: they keep you ahead of the game enough to feel anxiety about things, but not really certain that our fears are not baseless (like Charlie being almost willfully careless about her nut allergy, or the way they all keep information away from each other, only to have it explode into situations far worse that disclosure).

      I too liked the very different-looking locale. Beautiful, but at the same time, oddly unpleasant and foreboding. I had no idea where it could be, and then I saw at the end credits it was shot in Utah. A place I've never been.

      And given how so many of my favorite actresses are on the "eccentric" side: Karen Black, Sandy Dennis, Geraldine Page, Laura Dern...I can well imagine that Toni Collette can inspire mixed responses. Her talent is undeniable, but she's too quirky an actress to be one who goes down easy all the time (like Julie Andrews).

      If rewatching a movie is not your thing, consider reading the excellent screenplay instead. The way Ari Aster writes clarifies many murky areas and motivations.
      Thank you for reading and commenting, Loulou!

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    5. Toni's other dip into the scary movie genre was KRAMPUS. It was more of a traditional scary film with a touch of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation thrown in.

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    6. Thanks! That's another one I'll be checking on. I never heard of it, but for me Toni Collette is like Isabelle Huppert: even I hate the film, I always wind up liking her performance.

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  3. Hi Ken,

    I just watched a British horror movie called Await Further Instructions. Good premise, goes downhill fast. Not twenty minutes into it I thought, why can’t people in horror movies act like believable human beings?

    Not wanting to go down the basement is so much more intriguing than some fool saying “let me check out those ungodly noises coming from the basement.” All that’s left to do is roll your eyes. Then I thought of Hereditary. And the fear and rage and grief and guilt—not to mention the reaction to other people’s fears and madness is so identifiable it made me nervous. My god, the kitchen table scene! And the son’s whimpering of “mom” when she appears to be unraveling over her séance epiphany.

    Not sure if you’re keen on It Follows, but that movie excited me in the same way Hereditary did.

    Thanks!
    Max

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    1. Hi Max
      "Why can’t people in horror movies act like believable human beings?" ...you said a mouthful. In fact, it should be the title of an essay on horror tropes that need to be retired, and why films like HEREDITARY, GET OUT, and (now, for me) BABADOOK, speak to the rejuvenation of the genre when taken out of the hands of those who would recycle the same clichés and score their films to trash metal (Rob Zombie, et al.)

      Like you, no matter how compelling the concept, I tend to tune out the instant characters start to behave in ways idiotic. And because it takes quite a bit for me to become engaged with horror, the caliber of acting in most horror films puts me at a distance as well.
      I don’t like teenagers in real life, so the prospect of spending time with them onscreen (even if they are being slaughtered) has kept me away from most horror movies having young people as the central characters. I did enjoy IT FOLLOWS for the originality of its premise, but my anti-teen thing kicked in, making for an exclusively cerebral experience rather than an emotional one. (That happened with the SUSPIRIA remake, I loved it creatively and intellectually, but I found it a scare-free experience).

      One of the reasons I'm so keen on seeing the Jordan Peele horror film US that opens this month is because of a brief moment in the theatrical trailer when Lupita Nyong'o's character, sensing something's not right, says to her daughter "Zora...put on your shoes." A tiny detail, but the kind of thing that sets it in a recognizable reality, a Black reality (when you’re a kid and told to put your shoes on in hushed tones, something is DEFINITELY not right).

      When you say the character interactions in HEREDITY made you nervous, that’s what I felt as well. Alex Wolff was the antithesis of the horror movie teenager…he was so authentic. That dinner scene is one for the ages. And yes, when he says “mom” in that séance scene, or worse, when he resorts to screaming out “mommy” later in the film…Lord…it put me away.

      I don’t know if you see a lot of horror film, but it’s nice to read about what you respond to. Too often when I search online for horror recommendations, my sense is of people complaining only if a movie isn’t gory enough or if there were too few deaths.
      Thanks, Max, for reading this post and for voicing a far more relatable concern...people behaving in believable ways. Much appreciated!

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  4. Hi Ken - I am a huge horror film fan but find fewer and fewer that capture my imagination. The last one I added to my collection was Get Out, which was a mind-blowing mashup of Rosemary, Stepford Wives and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with the most amazing cast of actors I have ever seen.

    Most horror films these days are just silly gorefests or paint by numbers-predictable knockoffs which leave me feeling like a zombie! And M. Night Shymalan is so hit or miss...but still gives me a 30% chance of horror satisfaction...

    So for some reason, I skipped Hereditary when I read about it even though it stars my beloved Toni Collette--for me forever the glamorous Mandy from Velvet Goldmine--who is great in everything. Now you have made me want to see it!! I look forward!!
    -Chris

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    1. Hey Chris
      I didn't know you were a horror fan! I think I've only been gravitating to them of late as a means of managing the stress brought about by the current clown-car administration.
      But even given the limited number of horror movies I've seen, I'm in total accord with your assessment of what far too many have become. The predictability factor I find to be particularly exhausting (something I'm sorry to say I experienced recently in the latest iteration of HALLOWEEN).
      However, much like the McCarthy 50s and social upheaval '60s proved a fertile anxiety atmosphere for the creation of many seminal horror movies (respectively: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Rosemary's Baby), I'm sensing that our current cultural crisis is fodder for perhaps a rejuvenation of the genre. The polarizing HEREDITARY is a step in the right direction. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did if you should someday check it out. Since you're one who's also fond of Toni Collette, I'd say it's practically a must-see. Thanks very much for reading and commenting, Chris!

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  5. The truly, and I mean truly, disturbing Hereditary led me to watch Aster's follow-up last year, Midsommar. If not as can't-shake-this-off creepy as Hereditary, it still is one of my top films of 2019. The sheer off-kilter atmosphere of its sunlit (even at night) Nordic setting, the psychology and intensity of young love and the horror/ecstasy of getting what you wish for, and the star-making performance of Florence Pugh made it a winner for me.

    I was wondering if you've seen Midsommar yet and, if so, what your thoughts about it are.

    Mark

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    1. Hi Mark
      Yes, I am a big fan of both films. Making a point to see MIDSOMMAR before I was able to read anything about it, I was again blown away by the way Ari Aster seems to understand that horror without dread is just someone jumping out at you from the dark.
      HEREDITARY hit me harder (likely due to my coming from a dysfunctional family and HEREDITARY essentially a horror film about family dysfunction), but the relationship/psychology horror of MIDSOMMAR stayed with me for a long time. I've seen it twice now and I love all the details I keep picking up. I even sought out online the original screenplay featuring all the deleted scenes (likely to be put on the Bluray?) and it only makes the experience richer.
      I hope to get around to writing about it someday. I thought it was really brilliant.

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    2. True. Aster makes what could be called "dread films" more than mere "horror films."

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