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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 25, 2018

Hereditary Movie Review: Slow Moving Horror Flick Filled With So Much Anticipation But Without A Good Pay Off And Wtf Kind Of Ending About Demonism

‘HEREDITARY’ is the directorial debut of Ari Aster, who also wrote the script. It starts as an unsettling horror film that makes you guess whether the characters are just suffering from mental illness or truly experiencing the supernatural. It opens with a shot of a tree house, which is part of the design of the beautiful home of a strange family, the Grahams. We then see several dioramas with miniatures representing the interior of the house, then the camera closes in on a young man sleeping inside a bedroom.

The scene then moves and springs to life. We see Steve Graham (Gabriel Byrne) entering the room to wake up his sleeping son, Peter (Alex Wolff), for the funeral of his grandmother. He then looks for his daughter, 13-year old Charlie (Milly Shapiro) and can’t seem to find him until he goes up to the treehouse and sees her sleeping on the floor.

At the funeral service, Annie (Toni Collette), daughter of the deceased, is seen wearing a necklace that is similar to the one on her mom’s neck inside the coffin. In her eulogy, she says she is surprised that so many people have attended the service and mentions that her late mom, who she says is a difficult and stubborn person, would have disapproved of her talking about her.

Her husband Steve and son Peter seem quite relieved that her mom is gone but Charlie seems to be having a hard time about it. She sees strangers who smile or wave at her. Annie later goes to her mom’s bedroom and scans the things she left behind, including books on spirituality and the occult. She finds a note written for her saying: “Our sacrifices will pale next to the rewards.”

More strange things happen. Charlie, a loner, cuts the head of a dead bird with a pair of scissors to add to her strange collection of weird things. Peter seeks refuge from smoking pot. Steve gets a phone call from the cemetery but he does not share the information with Annie, who then seeks help from a grief support group where she finds a friend, Joan (Ann Dowd). Together, they do a seance to connect with her dead daughter, but this seems to only further disturb her son who’s already so disturbed by terrifying nightmares. As to where this is all going is something you cannot totally predict.

The director makes the movie deliberately and leisurely paced at more than two hours and it will surely bore those looking for instant results. Nothing much happens, so if you’re looking for hauntings and apparitions, you have to wait as the director toys with our expectations and loads up on the stylized way he is making us get to know the characters better, until another character dies in a tragic accident after Annie asked Peter to take his sister Charlie to a party.

There are no jump scares but the camera creepily creeps along corridors and eavesdrops through doors to create a moody background. The musical score is eerie enough featuring moaning brass intruments and a sound design that increases the chill factor that continually warns us of impending doom.

But after all the slow burn and the anticipation for a good pay off, we’re afraid viewers will be disappointed by it’s what-the-hell kind of ending that reeks of demonic overtones similar to “Rosemary’s Baby”. One drawback of the movie is that we really don’t sympathize with the characters. They can all die and we won’t really care.

If there’s one thing we like about the movie, it’s the acting, especially by Toni Colette who is very committed as the tormented Annie. Her acting in her confrontation scene with her son on the dinner table and her monologue in the support group meeting where she reveals how controlling her mom was, how her brother died of schizophrenia and how all this affected her and her family, is simply gripping and brilliant.