starring Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne
written and directed by Ari Aster
by Walter Chaw There's a feeling nagging at the back of my head that writer-director Ari Aster doesn't have another round in his chamber--that Hereditary, his feature-length debut, is a canny Frankenstein's monster of great horror moments sewn together expertly onto the trunk of Ordinary People. What I'm saying is that it literalizes the familial demons of Ordinary People, and in so doing diminishes them. It's a cheap, mean cop-out. It's an altogether ignoble thing for supernatural horror to be the literal, not metaphorical, explanation for familial dysfunction. There's a definite lack of ownership involved here, and the tremendous cast is thus betrayed by the film in which they find themselves. Reckless, feckless, the very definition of nihilistic, Hereditary is a marvellous technical achievement that feels too much like a calling card and too little like the cri de cœur I think it'd like you to believe it is. Even in the middle of its harrowing ending (and it is harrowing, don't get me wrong), there was a moment I stepped out of the film for a second to admire how "clean" it felt: a movie about the worst things you can ever imagine that I'd feel pretty good recommending to people. I was reminded of an interview with the late Jonathan Demme conducted around the time of The Silence of the Lambs where he talks about finding the line beyond which you'd lose the audience for being too frank in your depiction of atrocity. Hereditary is calculated in the same way. It's the movie about the unspeakable that everyone can agree on; the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland, renamed "My Mother Never Loved Me." It's a fun ride, but it leaves a weird aftertaste. In many ways, Hereditary is the quintessential horror film of the Trump administration.