ROGER THOMAS FILM REVIEW: A strange thriller that has captured most of the critics

Published 1:16 pm Thursday, June 21, 2018

I went into “Hereditary” with great expectations. There is a lot of buzz about this film and almost all of it is good. I even have a friend who told me to call him as soon as I saw the film so we could discuss it.

Roger Thomas

For the record, I waited a day before I called him back because I wanted some time to think. The next day we talked even though I was still not ready. And I am continuing to process this film.
So I will start with the elements of the film that appealed to me.
First, I think the film is well cast. Toni Collete is the lead as Annie. This is her best work since her great performance in “The Sixth Sense,” which earned her an Oscar nomination.
In “Sense” she played a mother who does not know her son is haunted by ghosts. If one has forgotten how great Collete is in that previous film, go back to the end of “Sixth Sense” when her young son confides in his mother.
Collete needs to make more creepy films, but I prefer the “Sixth Sense” style rather than “Hereditary.”
Collete is supported by Gabriel Byrne; he plays Annie’s husband Steve. Steve and Annie have a young daughter who is 10 or 12 years old who is named Charlie; she is played by Milly Shapiro.
Then there is Alex Wolff who plays the teenage son, Peter. Some may remember Wolff who also recently starred in the film “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” His performance was one of the best among the cast.
One other character that should get credit for her role is Ann Dowd. Dowd’s character is pivotal to the story and her performance is quite interesting. The filmmakers might look to Dowd if they are considering a sequel because there is a lot more story about this mysterious woman.
The setting of “Hereditary” also works very well. The family lives in a large home that is beautiful and creepy at the same time. There is also a treehouse next to the family dwelling that has some interesting moments. That treehouse made me think of my own childhood because I had several tree dwellings during my developing years.
The film also has great atmosphere. There are many moments that are tense and twice I had goosebumps in what I consider the scariest scenes of the film. That is the gold standard of fear in a film; when I have the goosebumps. I wish there had been more moments like those two.
I suppose what is the opposite of the goosebumps is the feeling I sometimes felt when a film goes too far with the tragic gore.
“Hereditary” is not filled with horrific effects, but there is one glimpse in the story that literally shocked me. I did not expect that there would be a moment in the film that was constructed to create such a degree of horror and disgust.
I will not describe it in this review, but I will say, in my opinion, that brief moment should have been deleted. The audience knew enough without seeing what was shown.
I could have done without it, but I am writing now about how that 15-second moment is one of the most memorable moments in the film.
Beyond that moment there are two other weaknesses in the film. First, I think the film could have been better constructed. Many moments worked, but others were weak.
And finally, the ending of the film left me disappointed. There are many parts of the film that shine brighter than the climax and I wish the filmmakers could have kept the momentum throughout.
So in the end, I was not enthralled as many were. But the film does have some strengths, but not quite enough for me to fully recommend it.
I think, ultimately, it is the film’s ending that disappoints completely.

Roger W. Thomas of Albemarle reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.