Hereditary (2018)
Dir. Ari Aster

Shifts critical-fashionably between polarities of dumb. Hereditary has a secret desire to lose itself to black blooded horror, but it is restrained by Ari Aster’s smothering auteurism. The twist is that it’s the latter impulse which manifests in ham-fisted cries and hollow shocks, some so shrill that the film inches towards something like a satisfying genre piece. It’s kind of hysterical: Collette’s gravity defying agony can’t steal focus from the smug master crafting callous scenarios in his very own miniature named Hereditary.

Like fellow dollhouse director Wes Anderson he figures there is exactly one angle from which to view the world and that is symmetrically in the middle of a space. Where Anderson employs literate retrograde crashes and montage however, Aster is entirely enamoured with slow pan and zooms, as though Hereditary was filmed in a world where It Follows was actually the genre re-defining moment its press release said it was. It wears what it doesn’t do with pride, but even its design by deduction comes shielded with citation- Aster, like anyone who watches movies, knows what he likes in the ones he likes, but on being tasked with putting his likes into action, struggles to display a knowledge of why, much less what can and should be achieved through, to be fair, fully capable mimesis. The set-up and denial of the ever-reviled jump scare for example becomes more of a focus within the film than actually coming up with ways to scare in its place, and the aforementioned symmetrical compositions make a clever miniature out of the house but at the expense of an eerie geography. Colin Stetson’s music, so angry and afraid in The Rover, so terse, becomes noise. In Aster’s world, art galleries call and harrass miniaturists like the art world depends on it, and in our world, film critics call Asters to make accomplished but vacuous miniature fetish products like the artform needs it too. It’s kitsch, a hideous replica.

It is fair to say that we might as well encourage over-confident filmmakers with no ideas in their heads to continue in the direction of exploitation ooze, because eventually they might stumble their way into negotiating pop horror kineticism with nu-horror portent. Aster, entirely without anything to say about anything (but with a tab open on One Perfect Shot), unconsciously begins hacking a path here. And if that fails, and atmosphere remains ‘atmosphere’, and the occult remains the last resort of those without content trying to cover their thematic bases, then we will at least get more laugh out loud deluded ultraviolence screening at mall cinemas and less mean-spirited family dramas in the festival circuit, which is a win-win.

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