HEREDITARY: The Film Babble Blog Review

Opening tonight at a dark, scary multiplex near us all:

HEREDITARY (Dir. Ari Aster, 2018) 

Writer/director Ari Aster’s first feature-length project, HEREDITARY, begins with one of my favorite shots I’ve seen this year at the movies. The camera closes in on a dollhouse in a room full of miniature sets, until one of the house’s rooms seamlessly blends into a shot of the real room it’s modeled after – a teenage boy’s bedroom.

The teenager, Peter (Alex Wolff), is a member of a classic nuclear family made up of his parents Annie and Steve Graham (Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne), and his sister, Charlie (Milly Shapiro) who live in a nice house somewhere in the woods of Utah (at least that’s where it was shot). We meet the Grahams on the morning of the funeral for Annie’s mother, and the feeling of grief is palpable in the film’s tense tone.

Later, Annie, who’s profession is as a maker of the miniatures used in the opening, sees an apparition of her mother in her workshop, the first such instance of the supernatural which makes her research the subject and suspect that her mother kept some creepy stuff secret from her.

Annie keeps her own secret from her family about going to support group meetings in which we learn of her father’s grim death. Meanwhile, her son, the pot smoking Peter, schemes to go to a party in hopes of scoring a date with a classmate (Mallory Bechtel), but is forced to take his 13-year old sister along. 

While Charlie is unattended to, she eats some cake that has nuts in it (we were told earlier about her allergies) and starts to go into anaphylactic shock *. Peter frantically drives to get Charlie to the hospital, but she gets killed in a grisly accident in which she gets decapitated. 

What’s really f-ed up is that Annie makes a miniature diorama of the accident scene, complete with a doll’s bloody head in the road in back of a toy car, and, for obvious reasons, this freaks out her husband Steve played by Byrne, who superbly relays exasperation and concern for his loved ones.

Peter begins seeing apparitions of Charlie, while Annie meets a woman at a meeting (Ann Dowd – Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale!) who holds séances to communicate with the dead, and we witness drawings being made by ghosts, the mother and son going into violent trances, and feel the undercurrent of a conspiracy decorated with satanic imagery.

HEREDITARY is top notch horror, but it’s through its strong depiction of strained family drama that makes it the powerful experience it is. Collette, no stranger to creepy kids and ghosts since her breakthrough performance 20 years ago in THE SIXTH SENSE, acts her ass off here. She’s enthrallingly committed to her role in every moment, which made me simultaneously scared for her and scared of her throughout.

Filmmaker Aster has named such vintage horror flicks as THE INNOCENTS, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE EXORCIST, and THE SHINING as inspirations, but the film feels more in line with such recent psychologically disturbing works as THE WITCH, KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, and IT COMES AT NIGHT (all titles from this film’s studio, A24).

With a debut that’s as dark and twisted as it is brilliantly inspired, Aster’s career as a new master of the macabre is off to an extremely scary start.

* Before the screening I went to at the newly opened Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Raleigh, a rep did an intro and said that during the movie they will pass out pieces of cake – “if anyone has nut allergies don’t eat it” she warned. How’s that for synergy?

More later…

A Sneak Peek Of The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Opening Soon In Raleigh

Today I was among a group of local media folks who were invited to check out the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which is opening later this month on New Bern Avenue, in Raleigh. 

The announcement on the invite succinctly stated, “Alamo has a rabid cult following within the film
community and Raleigh locals campaigned for years for this to be the first NC
location (the 29th for the Austin, TX based company).”

Being a big film fan, and film theater fan, Ive been very aware of the Alamos reputation for a long time so I was really looking forward to seeing the 11-screen complex, and it didnt disappoint. 

Check out some pictures (click on them for larger images):

A long bar with over 40 local draft beers on tap!

Movie soundtracks on vinyl! 

Big ass replicas of VHS tape covers!

Cool VHS tape tables that play VHS tapes!

The VHS tape imagery highlights the most surprising feature of this Alamo location: Video Vortex, a video store that will rent DVDs, Blu-rays, and rare VHS titles, many of which have never made the transfer to DVD. If you dont have a VCR, or DVD or Blu ray player, theyll rent that to you too. And heres the kicker: the rentals are free. 

Heres Video Vortex manager Josh Schafer showing off some of the Alamos enormous VHS collection:

And heres some of the Alamos vast inventory of DVDs and Blu rays (the horror section to be exact):

I chatted with Alamo founder/CEO Tim League about the idea of offering free movie rentals, and he said it was an experimental concept, and that there will still be late fees as half the revenue of a video store is late fees.” 

League went on to say that the video store is a Re-imagining of it. Weve got the retail and the bar – I’m thinking that this would be a cool place where youd just want to hang out – you’re surrounded by movies, we’ve got movie fans coming in and out so maybe you’d make an impulse buy or rent.” 

We also got a treat in seeing the first by invite presentation of this Alamo’s 35 mm system via a vintage trailer for SECRET OF MAGIC ISLAND, which League said was one of his all-time favorite trailers.

So that was my first visit of what I bet will be many to the Raleigh’s new venue/hang out spot, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Thanks to the fine people who invited me to see it, and were so nice to meet and chat with. Oh, and the food they served us was great too. Here’s a picture of some of it:

As to when exactly the theater is opening, nobody specified a date but I was told that they will be up and running when AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR comes out on April 26.

More later…