Thursday, February 28, 2019


"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, I posed little challenge to older sisters who loved to leap out at me from closets and shadowy rooms; their shouts of “Boo!” eliciting the usual shriek of terror or tearful outburst (often both) followed by the to be expected threat-yelled-in-retreat, “I’m gonna tell momma!”

When not being terrorized by siblings, I did a pretty good job of terrorizing myself by habitually (read: masochistically) raiding one sister’s collection of horror comic books; the macabre stories on the pages of The Witching Hour and House of Mystery ensuring that more than a few nights were to be spent with bedcovers pulled completely over my head. From television I learned at an early age that fear comes with its own soundtrack; consequently, whenever I felt frightened, my mind obligingly supplied the background music: i.e., John Williams’ nerve-jangling Suspense Theater theme or that creepy whistling intro to Journey to the Unknown.
Toni Collette as Annie Graham
Gabriel Byrne as Steve Graham
With the waning of the 1960s, the make-believe horrors of Wait Until Dark (“What did they want with her? What did they want with her?” screamed the films poster ad copy--to my abject terror) and Rosemary’s Baby (“What have you done to its eyes?”) vied with the real-life variety (Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the Zodiac Killer, & the Manson Family) for dominance over my exposed-nerve psyche; puberty ultimately claiming final victory as my teens ushered in a phase of such acute self-consciousness, all other anxieties took a back seat. No doubt out of a need for cathartic release, it’s around this time that I began to actively seek out the vicarious thrills of horror movies, happily, of which there was no shortage in the ‘70s. The strenuously orchestrated scares of The Exorcist, The Omen, Burnt Offerings, and The Sentinel gave my burgeoning id an outlet while providing me with ample opportunity for stress release and a risk-free exposure to jeopardy and fear.
Alex Wolff as Peter Graham
Milly Shapiro as Charlie Graham
While I don’t tend to think of myself as a fan of horror movies, I am most definitely a fan of movies that seize my imagination and draw me into their reality. When this occurs, I become engrossed in the narrative, intrigued by the characters, and invested (emotionally or psychologically) in their fate. It’s an exhilarating sensation when this happens with any genre of film, but when it happens by way of the fright flick experience—where tension, mystery, suspense, anxiety, and all the other forms of delectable discomfiture that come with exploring the unknown from the safety of a movie theater seat…well, it’s a pleasure unique for the film fan who’s come to appreciate the adrenaline rush of a good, scary horror movie. 

But I haven't been that easily-frightened kid for some time now. Maturity (OK, old age) and life experience have significantly reduced the number of things that frighten me; while a steady diet of movie consumption has resulted in an over-familiarity with the tropes of the horror genre. It feels like all of sudden it's become very difficult to find a movie I consider to be genuinely scary. And by scary, I don’t mean those formulaic fright franchises that toss a goulash of gore, jump-cuts, and amplified sound at me as a substitute for not understanding how horror works. I mean scary as in that certain “something” that happens when a film grabs you on some visceral level, taps into some hidden, subliminal, nameless anxiety, and then takes you on a journey where your inner voice is screaming you don’t want to go.
I love when a movie can make me feel that way, but it doesn’t happen often these days.
Ann Dowd as Joan
It happened in 2017 when Get Out, the brilliant feature film debut of director/screenwriter Jordan Peele, chilled me to the bone with the canny ingeniousness of its horror premise; a perfect nightmare metaphor for benevolent racism’s daily micro-terrorisms. And it happened again in 2018 with another film by an emerging talent making his directing/screenwriting debut: Ari Aster’s Hereditary; the first movie in ages to reawaken that pleasurable unpleasantness known as being truly scared by a movie. 
The Dollhouse Effect
Hereditary toys with the concept of perception. Physical reality, visual perspective, psychological cognizance, and even auditory recognition are manipulated to create a sense of unease and disequilibrium. 

I came to Hereditary without foreknowledge of its plot, merely the awareness of Toni Collette--an actress I can watch in anything--being its star. I’d just finished binge-watching Collette in the limited BBC One series Wanderlust on Netflix, her extraordinary performance in that program leaving me clamoring for more. Always intrigued when an actor of her caliber appears in a horror movie (Collette’s only Oscar nomination to date was for her supporting role in 1999’s The Sixth Sense), I purposely avoided reading anything about Hereditary beforehand and thus dove in blindly with eyes wide open, curiosity piqued, and with a great deal of enthusiasm.
I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I’m not sure it's actually even possible to be disappointed by Hereditary; for it doggedly refuses to be what you think it will be, go where you assume it will go, or in any way deliver the expected. (From what I’ve read of those who didn't care for Hereditary, a significant degree of dissatisfaction seems to stem precisely from the film failing to conform to what one has been programmed and conditioned to expect from horror movies.)
Portrait in Black

Plot: 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 completely and horrifically out of control. Annie (Toni Collette) whose mother it was died in hospice after a long, grasping illness, is an artist who copes with her troubled childhood (a mother who suffered from dissociative identity disorder, a father whose clinical depression led him to starve himself to death, an older brother who committed suicide when she was just a teen) by recreating traumatic life events in breathtakingly disturbing miniature dioramas.
Annie hasn’t exactly escaped her family’s legacy of mental illness, intimated in the film by her having married her therapist, psychiatrist Steve Graham (Gabriel Byrne), and later disclosed explicitly by Annie herself when she confides to a friend how, two years earlier, during a sleepwalking incident linked to a nervous breakdown, she doused herself and her two sleeping children in paint thinner, awakening only as she heard herself striking a match. As a result of that harrowing incident, her relationship her with 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 the deceased—is emotionally remote and (like Annie) channels her dissociation into the creation of unsettling, pagan-like works of art.
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 

The stage has thus been set for an intense drama of familial dysfunction set in the aftermath of a tragedy, exploring the complexities surrounding how each goes about the business of processing loss. And there’s plenty of complexities to go around. Bereavement: at the loss of her grandmother, Charlie is (peculiarly) fretful that there is no one now to take care of her. Conciliation: Steve straining under the (self-assumed) burden of always having to be the steadying force and take the placatory role in family conflicts; he turns to drink. Blame: Peter, feeling unsafe with his mother and holding her responsible for their estrangement, retreats into drug use. Guilt: While harboring concern for her own sanity, Annie tortures herself with the fear that she has passed along her family’s legacy of mental illness to her children. Reluctant to compound what she sees as a burden already placed upon them, she has no one to open up to and represses her resentment of that fact.
Intimate Strangers
Hereditary is a family drama cloaked in a horror film. Using the tight, closed-off spaces of dollhouses as a visual and emotional motif, the film shows us a family that shares a great deal of trauma, yet they shut themselves off from one another. Barely speaking to one another, they all remain in their separate, isolated spaces, developing isolated ways of processing their pains and fears. Hereditary is smart enough to place the emotional conflicts dead center of its story, daring enough to take grief and loss seriously, but audacious enough to stretch its narrative to the most grotesque limits of the truly horrific.
Like the sinister sculpture that stands 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) director Ari Aster presents us with a damaged family slowly sinking into the quicksand of personality pathology, and stacks upon them compounding layers of crisis and catastrophe worthy of Greek Tragedy. When the film erupts into nightmarish chaos and preternatural hysteria, it feels expected (from the beginning the tone of dread is so pervasive, it's as if we are being primed for the worst) yet totally catches you unawares. It's an experience that left me feeling both shaken and stirred.
And oh, so delighted to be surprised at the movies again.
Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, and Alex Wolff

I'd given up hope that it could happen to any more, but after seeing Hereditary I was so unnerved that for a day or so after I saw it, I experienced that apprehensive sensation of being subliminally over-aware of things like shadows, vaguely seen shapes in the darkness, creaky noises, dark rooms, and too-quiet outdoor areas at night. Just like when I saw a scary movie as a kid!
When film critic Pauline Kael titled her 1965 collection of reviews I Lost it at The Movies she was (wittily) referencing the loss of innocence (intellectual, illusions, spiritual, emotional) that happens every time one sees a film. What the title doesn't address is that while the film enthusiast does indeed grow and develop with each movie consumed, to remain receptive to the art form they must also find ways of reclaiming that lost innocence...their "fresh eyes," if you will...each time they embark upon a new film experience.
Milly Shapiro and Toni Collette
Of late, achieving the level of emotional and intellectual surrender necessary to acquire the suspension of disbelief demanded by most horror films has become a task Herculean. But whether due to the persuasiveness of the performances (believable characters are the key to making the impossible plausible) or cleverness of its concept, Hereditary impressed me with how often it caught me off guard. Like so many of my favorites from the ‘70s, Hereditary tells its story its own way, with its own voice, and with a distinct world view. This uniqueness of perspective makes for a compelling and thoroughly engrossing filmgoing, full of surprises. And though it’s easy to forget what with Hollywood grinding out something like 90 iterations of Halloween, Friday the 13th, or The Amityville Horror, the element of surprise is still a good thing in a horror movie.
A layered and masterfully modulate exercise in tension, Hereditary is not just a film so good you want to see it twice; the way it's constructed it demands a return engagement simply to sort out all that your senses have been bombarded with. The family drama element is so painful and tortuously actualized, that's the part that brought me back for a second (and a third) viewing. Add to this the film's hypnotic production design (the eerie shade of bluish green that floods nearly every scene) and the nerve-janglingly good sound editing, and you've got a feast for the eyes and ears--the music is wonderfully creepy, too). Each frame is crammed to overflowing with information, clues, and foreshadowing, but the film—blissfully free of exposition and spelling things out—leaves it to you to discover these pieces of the puzzle for yourself.
Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne

OK, we all know horror films, like comedies, rarely get any respect come award season. And given the long and impressive list of films and performances that have been overlooked over the years, it's hard to get too worked up over any of it. But, seriously, Hereditary was robbed. Toni Collette is al raw, exposed nerve endings in what I think is the best performance of her career to date.  I'm just gonna say my own personal Le Cinema Awards would go to go to Toni Collette and Alex Wolff, and then from there, I take in direction, screenplay, cinematography, sound, and art direction/production design.
Hereditary boasts superb and sensitive performances from its entire cast, but Toni Collette is nothing short of astounding. The strength of the entire film rests on the push-pull antagonism between Collette and Wolf, and the explosive, symbiotic contrast of their achingly tormented performances amounts to some of the finest acting I've ever seen. In saner times the dinner table scene alone would have won Collette a nomination. Similarly, Wolff's agonizingly recognizable depiction of adolescent grief is unforgettable. There's a brief moment where he's seen silently trying to gather the courage to simply enter his house, and it's simply heartbreaking. Hereditary is full of beautiful, painful scenes of people just trying to cope, but they're tragically alone.

Should New Wave cinema’s long-dead Auteur Theory ever be revived, singular-vision horror films like Hereditary and Get Out would make a persuasive case. The 5 years it took for Ari Aster to bring Hereditary to the screen finds it to be a work of uncompromising individuality bearing the stamp of a distinct world view and unflinchingly naked emotions.
The visual style adopted for the film play off of the dollhouse/diorama motif, drawing upon themes of restriction, fate, and predestination.
The compositions of shots, both interior and exterior, trick the eye and suggest the isolated and claustrophobic spaces of dollhouses. Annie's art installation dioramas were created by Steve Newburn, Hereditary's stunning production design by Grace Yun. Everything from Colin Stetson's shivery music 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 unwavering atmosphere of uneasiness.
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.

If such terms as “humane horror” or “eerily empathic” exist, Heredity would fit the bill. Horror films are hollow films without an emotional core to which to attach the mayhem. 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.
Annie finds someone outside of the home to whom she can confide 
In its study of a family in a state of disintegration, Hereditary is as heart-rending as it is horrifying. A horror film that gripped me from its first images, and one that I was sorry to see it end. I got so caught up with the life of these people that once the horror elements began to reveal themselves, I was actually afraid for them and found myself hoping for their deliverance. To get you to care that much for its characters is a major achievement for a film. To also scare the bejesus out of you in the process is a triumph.

Unsafe Cinema
Nothing's more terrifying than a horror film that takes death, loss, and grief seriously

From 2008 to 2010, Gabriel Byrne played psychologist Paul Weston on the HBO series In Treatment. Alex Wolff portrayed his son in the show's last season.
Father & Son (again)

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


  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.

    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.

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

    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!

    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.

    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!

    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!

    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.

    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.

  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.


    1. Hi Max
      "Why can’t people in horror movies act like believable human beings?" 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!

  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!!

    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!

  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.


    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.

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