One of the worst movies last years was Hereditary, though it generated a lot of buzz and gathered quite a bit of critical acclaim it fell flat with this critic. To me, it was indulgence in the frankly unpleasant and awkward, not the scary, and meandered around until it gave up on the plot and simply ended, leaving nothing but ash in my mouth. But it was a success so writer-director Ari Aster is back and with probably even more creative freedom and budget.
When the movie opens, it is, actually, pretty good! We see a young woman named Dani, who is nervously scouring her e-mails, she’s conversing with someone who doesn’t sound right. She phones her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) that talking with his other friends about how he doesn’t want to deal with her anymore, but he still takes her calls and essentially gives support through autopilot. We learn that Dani is conversing with her sister who has been suffering from mental health issues and these specific words she’s been using make her nervous, she’s stopped e-mailing back. Dani calls the police and the go and investigate but its too late, her sister has killed her and their parents. This scene is unnerving, atmospheric, efficiently establishes much about the characters and their relationships and is genuinely scary. Then the rest of the movie happens.
We cut to six months later and Dani and Christian are still together, really because now would be a terrible time to break up with Dani being very fragile. It’s learned that Christian is planning on going abroad to Switzerland to visit their friend Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) home village and also write their thesis on the place and their culture. The other friends are Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Mark (Will Poulter). Out of comfort Christian invites Dani along but assures the boy’s shes not really coming, she comes!
But as soon as they arrive in the town the movie nosedives and it never stops, it just keeps going and when it hits rock bottom it just keeps going.
Florence Pugh made a name for herself with the Park Chan Wook mini-series Little Drummer Girl, then went on to impress further in the Wrestling movie Fighting with my Family. Here is a project where she really gets to demonstrate what a talent she is, she has to convey complete polar opposites of emotions to the extreme and a whole bunch of other shades in between.
I’ll give credit where credit is due this one starts on solid ground and that is used to push the characters and the narrative further going into the movie, but once we get to the place it all starts to unravel. You don’t know where the plot is going and you really start to not care as it goes on and on because it has all just become a series of weirdness and unpleasantness and indulgence. When the movie finally ended I was exhausted and one of the last images they present us with is something I suspect that the filmmakers believed was scary but was frankly hilarious, I would have been laughing except I was just too damn tired of being here.
One of the great crimes of the movie is its cinematography and the unique accomplishment of the color correction. These are meticulously composed shots, with imagery that sticks in your mind, this will probably go on to be a very iconic movie. Color grading is a process where they take the raw footage and it is processed so that it either looks more saturated, less saturated, deeper blacks, etc. What they’ve done here is make the image look like an old pastel painting. It has this grainy, flat, but also vivid look to it that I haven’t seen in a movie ever. Such effort and panache, wasted on this dismal project.
I have never hated the experience but been so in awe over the craftmanship in a movie. The sounds, the images, the performances, but it all goes to waste on an experience that I think means something but looses its meaning in its own indulgence and style. I guess this is better than Hereditary but also weaker. Just another journey of draining and unpleasantness.