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Director: Ari Aster
Cast: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne
Rating: (R16) ★★★+
Screening at: Reading
Reviewed byJeremy Quinn
First-time director Ari Aster’s Hereditary is a truly nerve-wracking experience.
Coming with a large amount of ex-festival, pre-release hype placing it somewhere near the second coming of horror cinema, or at least among the best of this generation’s Rosemary’s Baby meets The Exorcist rip-offs, first-timer Ari Aster’s Hereditary (Reading) is an at times truly nerve-wracking experience that, when not being overly drawn-out and derivative, is supremely confident and original, bordering on experimental, and it must be said will scare the Holy Bejeebus out of some.
It does this with a disorientating and unsettling visual approach, an audacious and wickedly inventive sound design, which would be funny if it weren’t so disconcertingly abrasive, and a compelling, highly unnerving take on the standard haunted house/demonic possession/black magic horror tropes that genre buffs will have seen a million times over, but rarely with this level of intensity.
It has a standout, award-worthy performance from Toni Collette, with fine support by newcomer Alex Wolff, in a story best left spoiler-free. The score by Colin Stetson is phenomenal, with its sub-bass and screechy stylings designed for maximum discomfort. The camerawork is audacious, bold and fluid, although the blue-bleached colour palette typical of much modern horror is a drag.
Scriptwise, it’s a little less impressive, with plot holes and contrivances that occasionally grate, and while the admittedly bravura, shaggy-dog finale is indeed chilling, it also ends the film on a frustratingly literal note, rendering moot much of what we’ve already seen if you can catch your breath to think about it.