Oh, what a pleasure it is to see Toni Collette right where she belongs, on the big screen, in a leading role worthy of her sky-high talents.
Collette, who should've won that Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her devastating turn in The Sixth Sense, has a field day in her latest picture, filmmaker Ari Aster's dizzying horror flick Hereditary. Right up there with the legendary likes of Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby and Shelley Duvall in The Shining, this is one of the all-time great performances to grace this genre.
In the film, Collette portrays Annie Graham, wife to Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and mom to teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff) and younger daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Annie is kinda-sorta grieving over the recent loss of her estranged mother Ellen - they weren't terribly close and, as we soon discover, Ellen put her family through a whole lot of hell, especially Annie's brother, who ultimately committed suicide.
When tragedy strikes another member of the Graham clan, Annie finds herself drawn to Joan (Ann Dowd), a member of a support group she has joined. Joan, who lost both her son and grandson, has been communicating with the latter through a seance. Annie, to the great chagrin of her family, decides she'll do the same at home - and what a poor decision that is, as the house becomes ravaged by malevolent supernatural forces that threaten to bring every Graham down.
I'm hoping to steer clear of spoilers but let's just say fans of Rosemary's Baby, Poltergeist and The Exorcist are bound to have a blast with Hereditary. Aster has no doubt been inspired by the classics, without ever resorting to rip anything off. The film looks incredible, photographed by Pawel Pogorzelski, and Aster's screenplay, while a sad and scary affair for the most part, hardly lacks a sense of humor. Only the picture's ending doesn't quite satisfy, playing as curiously silly vis a vis the genuine horrors that precede it.
What's especially stirring here is the acting - Collette has never been better and she's matched by an ensemble also operating at the tops of their game. Byrne's understated approach gels nicely with Collette's hysterics, while Dowd is an irresistible, if unsettling delight. Both Wolff and Shapiro effectively contribute to the film's spine-chilling atmosphere.
Hereditary won't be everyone's cup of tea and I do fear its conclusion could overshadow the rest of the proceedings for some. That said, I doubt we'll be encountering another picture this genuinely terrifying over the remainder of 2018.