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Review: Toni Collette Turns in an Oscar-Caliber Performance in One of the Year’s Most Anticipated Horror Films, ‘Hereditary’

June 8, 2018Britany Murphy

"Sins of the father" is a common theme in many films. But in Hereditary, it is the sins of the matriarchs that one need worry about. After the death of her reclusive mother, Annie Graham (Toni Collette) begins to notice strange happenings with her family. At first, she chalks it up to dealing with their loss, but when the strange gives way to the paranormal, she knows something must be done.

The movie opens with a eulogy at a funeral. Annie stands at the podium, speaking calmly into the microphone as she tells the mourners gathered a little bit about her late mother. Certain words stand out during the speech, however — particularly when she says, "My mother was a very private woman." Due to those private ways, Annie reveals that her mother would be surprised by the turnout, but happy nevertheless.

When Annie, her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne), her son, Peter (Alex Wolff), and her daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), arrive home, Annie makes sure that her children are alright. In this moment, she asks Steve if her reaction to everything was acceptable. Ultimately, she doesn't feel as though she is sad enough — an unlikely reaction for someone who has just lost their mother. But just like anything else, life goes on. It seems like it is Annie's burden to bear, as well as Charlie's, as she appears to be the one most impacted by her grandmother's passing. And although one might presume this would bring mother and daughter closer together, it only serves to create a wedge between them, as they both try to process their grief, or lack thereof.

Wanting more for her daughter, Annie ends up sending her to a party attended by older kids, to which her brother is reluctant to take her. But then an accident occurs at the party that leaves both Peter and Charlie in a panic, serving as the film's catalyst, and providing more heartache, paranormal activity and scares for the Graham family.

Toni Collette's performance in Hereditary is flawless. It might be a little early in the year to say this, but Collette should be considered for her performance as Annie come award season. Collette captures your attention every time she is on-screen, and the emotional roller coaster ride she takes you on with her character is the movie's standout element. There is something that Collette brings to Annie that makes the character oddly relatable, despite the circumstances and trouble that seems to follow her like a shadow. In essence, Collette makes this difficult role seem easy, and the film is worth watching based on her performance alone.

Writer/Director Ari Aster's feature debut is a decent first outing. The slow-burn element might not connect with horror fans who enjoy a more typical or formulaic approach, and while the build-up serves to create tension and leave the audience with a generally ominous feeling, it does not work throughout the whole movie. Where the film does deserve major props, though, is in its ability to utilize the element of sound. Aster and the crew definitely know how to work their magic in that arena, and it makes for a creepy and uneasy atmosphere, especially during the latter half. That said, where things fall flat is in the fact that, most of the time, you wait too long to be frightened, and then when (or if) you finally are, it is not always quite what you were expecting.

Ultimately, if you're looking for scares every five minutes, Hereditary will most likely leave you wanting. However, if slow-burn horror movies are to your liking, then this is the perfect film for you.

Hereditary releases June 8th, 2018 from Elevation Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 7 min.

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