(US - 2018)
Written and directed by Ari Aster. Cast: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Mallory Bechtel. (R, 127 mins)
The buzz around HEREDITARY has been nonstop since it was screened at the Sundance Film Festival six months ago. Written and directed by Ari Aster, it's one of the most confident and impressive debuts in a long while, a harrowing, cerebral shocker that eschews the overplayed jump scares in favor of a slowly escalating sense of suffocating dread, hopelessness, and absolute terror that mercilessly tightens its grip over two intense hours. It's not surprising that A24 acquired the distribution rights--they've been positioning themselves as Blumhouse's nerdy, brainier alternative and the home for "serious" horror for a few years now, going back to THE WITCH, THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER, and IT COMES AT NIGHT, all thoughtful, uncompromising films that earned significant critical accolades but tended to frustrate and alienate mainstream audiences. With the festival hype calling HEREDITARY "this generation's EXORCIST," you can expect the same commercial response again once the multiplex moviegers and the horror scene's notoriously insular "gatekeeper" (© Jason Coffman) crowd gets a look at it. Unlike the increasingly generic horrors offered by Blumhouse, A24 acquisitions like HEREDITARY provoke thought, discussion, and are works that play the long game and will stand the test of time. It's not the game-changer that THE EXORCIST was because horror is probably past the point where game-changers even exist. There isn't much more that can be classified as "innovative," and like any filmmaker who grew up watching any kind of movie, Aster is going to be influenced by the works of others that paved the way.