September 4, 2018  (Web Review)

Hereditary

Lionsgate, 127 min., R, DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $39.99, Sept. 4

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Australian actress Toni Collette plays a scream queen in this psychological thriller about parents who are left with a diabolical legacy after the family matriarch’s death. Hereditary begins with a terse eulogy for dementia-addled 78-year-old Ellen Taper Leigh by her dry-eyed daughter Annie (Collette), who describes her difficult mother as so secretive and suspicious that she won’t be missed. “Should I be sadder?” Annie asks her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne). Barely surviving a harrowing childhood with a suicidal father, schizoid brother, and remote mother, Annie is an artist who lives in an architecturally magnificent home in rural Utah, where she creates a tableaux of tiny, detailed doll houses, filled with miniature representations of herself. When Annie discovers a secret journal about spiritualism, she glimpses her mother’s ghost. Shortly thereafter, when a bird flies into the window of their treehouse, Annie’s 13-year-old daughter Charlie (Millie Shapiro) calmly picks it up and cuts off its head with scissors. And Annie’s older son, Peter (Alex Wolff), a moody, pot-smoking high-school student, is involved in a fatal car crash. Annie then goes to a grief-counseling group in which a participant relates how she contacted her dead son with the help of a medium, so Annie conjures up her own séance, while Steve seems oblivious—totally unaware that supernatural forces may be at work that are causing Annie’s emotional agony. Director Ari Aster does a masterful job of creating a pervasive sense of menace in this subtle, scary thriller. Recommended. (S. Granger)