Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hereditary

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Grieving her mother's recent death, miniaturist artist Annie (Toni Collette) is not ready for yet another heartbreak, but tragedy strikes when you least expect it to. With no one having the guts to take either blame or responsibility, the family disintegrates in the midst of mental illness and supernatural mayhem. Steve Graham (Gabriel Byrne), her husband and a psychologist, believes that his wife is just having manic episodes to cope with her grief. When their son Peter (Alex Wolff) begins to act strangely and reports weird visions and apparitions of his own, the family must confront the possibility that their problem might just be way beyond whatever solutions modern psychology can offer.

Where do we even begin? Perhaps the best way to start this analysis is by giving you an idea of the overall vibe of the film. Do you know that feeling of being so drunk or high that you are in a constant state of paranoia, unable to make sense of what is happening around you? It's as if nothing makes sense and you do not know where to begin. That's how watching Hereditary feels like. You need to be quick in order to catch up or else the plot will leave without you, and you will be left there scratching your head wondering what the hell just happened. Needless to say, you will be doing a lot of post-mortem research on Google and Wikipedia after leaving the cinema.

Overall, this film is plain freaky. The mini dollhouses that Annie creates mostly depict her family's daily reality and there are scenes in which the camera zooms to one of them before seamlessly transitioning into the real-life scene. How they accomplish such visual wonder is anybody's guess, but it definitely contributes to the creepy atmosphere. It also makes you feel as though you're being watched from afar.

One thing that works for this movie's advantage is the storyline which seems to jump from one theme to another faster than you can scream "jump scare"! The plot takes off making you think that you are watching a typical horror story that will be full of ghosts and spirits. Halfway through you get the idea that perhaps this is just one of those narratives where everything is just in their head. You know, a psychological thriller. After all, the writers go out of their way to emphasize that mental illness runs in the family. Hence, the title. Later on, witchcraft also becomes a possibility, with wiccan paraphernalia getting their own screen time. Eventually, the narrative goes down the doomsday cult route. That's why the experience is so engaging, because somehow you just can't decipher what the story is trying to establish.

In terms of acting, Collette delivers a stellar performance. She is no stranger to such theme after all, given her experience in United States of Tara. As a mother on the brink of a mental breakdown, she makes you feel her downward spiral, the quick deterioration of her state of mind in an intense and gripping manner. That dinner scene is particularly hard to watch given the overwhelming combo of grief, pain, anger, and guilt all rolled into one neurotic tirade.

But underneath all the jump scares and occult references, Hereditary is a family drama more than anything else. The narrative deals with grief and losing a loved one, which might hit close to home if you've had a similar experience as of late. The feeling can be all too familiar and one can argue that regardless whether all the supernatural aspects are real or not, everything can be interpreted as a metaphor for the stages of grief that a human being has to go through when dealing with the death of someone dear.

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