Hereditary (2018)

You Can Always Build a Shrine To All The Terrible Things in the World.

The reports I had heard about today’s movie were extremely mixed.  It seemed that critics were in love with this movie, but the average viewer was not always on the same page.  I even heard comparisons to the movie Drive, that many critics thought was brilliant.  I, however, thought that movie was garbage, the likes of which I would never want to endure again.  And yet still I decided I would watch the movie Hereditary, written and directed by Ari Aster, and starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd.

Uhhhhhh…this is complicated.  There’s this family.  Mom Annie (Collette), dad Steve (Byrne), son Peter (Wolff), and daughter Charlie (Shapiro).  Annie’s mom dies and then creepy things start happening.  First ghosty things and then witchy things.  I don’t know, man.  It’s confusing.

So, which side did I end up on?  Did I hate the movie or love it?  …Neither.  I disliked a lot of things in this movie, but I wouldn’t call it bad.  The movie succeeded in being pretty unsettling in parts and definitely pulled off creepy, but I don’t know if I’d say it was scary either.  But as far as horror movies go, I would say that makes it successful.  Most movies rely heavily on jump scares or gore to call themselves horror movies, but there’s an art to creating an atmosphere that gives the audience an uneasy feeling, and this movie is able to pull that off.  I feel like this is the kind of movie people are going to have to watch for themselves because everyone is going to have their own reactions to it, much (as I had heard beforehand) like the movie Drive.

So that’s my review, if that’s why you came here.  But generally speaking, I wouldn’t say I’m the best place to come for thoughtful film criticism.  I mostly make jokes about things that happen in the movie and at the end, I say if I liked it or not.  But the jokes to be made about this movie are going to be mostly spoilers, so if you intend to see it, maybe come back after.  Otherwise, here we go with some spoilers:

A lot of this movie is about Toni Collette dealing with loss.  First she loses and eulogizes her mother and starts going to support groups about it where she gives a big sob story about her troublesome relationship with her mother and dealing with her loss.  I really wish that when she finished her harrowing tale the rest of the people in the group stared at her and said, “Uh…this is a group for dealing with the loss of a pet…”  But we don’t always get what we want.  For example, Annie probably didn’t want her daughter to be decapitated by a telephone pole, and the people who made the movie probably didn’t want me to laugh when it happened.  But it was kinda funny.  At least to me.

The visuals of this movie certainly aided in creating a mood.  The whole movie had a sense of isolation to it, especially since it seemed that the place where they filmed it had very strict zoning laws that required no building be built near enough to another building that it could see it.  You’ve got one building, acres of open land, and then maybe you can have another building.  I’ve never been one to say that gore makes a horror movie good, but this movie did have some good ones.  From the decapitated head of Charlie covered in ants to when Annie was sawing her head off with a wire, it was just the right amount of unpleasant to look at.

The performances are probably what a lot of this movie hinges on.  Toni Collette sure did a performance.  It wasn’t bad.  In fact, I’d probably say it was good.  Maybe even great.  But it did feel a little over the top at times.  I guess others might argue that it was right on the money though since her daughter was decapitated shortly after her mom died and a little before her husband burst into flames, so perhaps a little hysteria is called for.  I guess it could also explain some of the things she did I found nonsensical.  Not her job though.  She had that before her tragedies and I still found it inexplicable.  But who is paying this woman to make tiny, creepy, dioramas?  Is there a big market for a miniature recreation of your daughter’s untimely death?  And moreover, is there a reason for this to be such a big part of this movie?  She also seemed pretty off on her judgment of normal behavior, like when she tried to excuse her sleep-walking actions.  She acted like it was a completely common occurrence for sleep walkers to attempt to murder their children by dousing them with paint-thinner and lighting a match.  You know, as all our mothers did at one time or another.  Also, when her husband said she was scaring their son and she said, “No I am not!” … all while he was crying his eyes out because of her hysteria.  Of course, I didn’t like that boy either.  Like, he kills his sister.  It was an accident and I don’t blame him for that.  She was the dumb ass that stuck her head out the window like a dog.  But right after you killed your sister you’re just gonna drive home, park in the driveway with her torso still in the car, go up to your room and go night-night?  At least leave a Post-It note on the fridge, homie.  “Mom, killed Charlie.  Will clean it up in the morning.  Just a heads up.  Sorry, poor choice of words.”  He also accused his mom of trying to pull his head off when some ghostly hands grabbed him through his headboard of his bed.  Dude, your headboard was against the wall.  That is physically impossible.  And this was before he had the excuse of the head injury he received at school when he bashed his face into his desk.  And the school also didn’t have the excuse of a head injury of their own when they sent him home after that.  He was unconscious!  So much so that his parents had to carry his unconscious body into the house to put him in bed.  Shouldn’t he have been sent to a hospital if he was practically in a coma?

So Hereditary was a little confusing, but certainly unsettling.  Maybe even to the point where some would call it scary.  The performances chewed the scenery a bit, but I would certainly give them credit for going all out.  I’m still not entirely sure what I’d tell people about this movie.  It seems to be very polarizing and I can see why.  I wound up in the middle, thinking it to be a solid horror movie.  It wouldn’t hurt you to watch it, but I don’t think I’d call it a necessity either.  Hereditary gets “I never wanted to be your mother” out of “Hail, Paimon!”

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The Sixth Sense (1999)

Bruce Willis Was Dead the Whole Time!

I decided to end the October Horror-thon with my favorite scary movie, one that is apparently not a horror movie according to the websites I’ve checked.  But fuck ’em, there are dead people in this movie so I’m counting it.  This movie is The Sixth Sense, aka “The Best Movie M. Night Shyamalan Had in Him.”  This is the movie that did the special twist ending so well that he felt every movie he made had to have a much worse version of it.  Let’s find out how well The Sixth Sense holds up, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and starring Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg, and Mischa Barton.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is drunk and boring his wife, Anne (Olivia Williams) by incessantly bragging about receiving an award for being a really good child psychologist.  They go upstairs to get a little freaky naughty and find a window broken and a strange, mostly naked man in their bathroom.  Malcolm figures out that this guy is a former patient named Vincent Grey (Donnie Wahlberg).  Turns out Grey is not happy because Malcolm wasn’t able to help him with his problem 10 years earlier, so he shoots Malcolm in the stomach and blows his own brains out.  Cut to next autumn, where Crowe is creepily watching his next patient, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment).  Malcolm has taken a particular interest in this young boy because of his tight, form-fitting jeans and his similarity to Grey.  “This time,” he resolves, “I WON’T get shot.”  It takes some time for Malcolm to gain the confidence of Cole, but when he does, Cole tells Malcolm his secret: Cole sees dead people.  Malcolm wants to give up on Cole, but he also doesn’t want to get shot in 10 years.  The movie continues on to it’s resolution of Cole’s problem, the classic Shyamalan twist, and the credits.

When this movie first came out, it was a phenomenon, and with good reason.  Not only was it a well-made movie and a well-written story, but the twist at the end was so epic and so well-hidden that it was a gigantic faux pas for someone to ruin it.  I hadn’t remembered it, but my roommate told me that he remembers ruining it for another one of our friends and that getting them really pissed off.  I, however, got to witness it without my douchebag roommate’s spoilers and so I enjoyed the movie immensely.  The story is a fairly classic one that happens in a lot of ghost movies when someone is the sole person that can see them.  The twist is what separates this movie from the others.  The atmosphere is also one to be appreciated.  It’s quiet and slow as it builds the tension and, though I grant that it does go for a lot of startling, the mood it creates elevates those scares when they happen.  Things like the cabinets opening when the mom leaves the room, the lady in the kitchen with cuts on her wrists, and the boy with the head wound all get a nice jump out of the audience.  But someone needs to talk to these ghosts about first impressions.  When Osment decides to try to help the ghosts, the first one pops up out of nowhere and vomits at him.  Why don’t you throw up BEFORE you go talk to him, and maybe wave him over from across the room.  And was it necessary to grab his leg out of nowhere when he was in your room to help you?  Not cool, Mischa Barton!  The use of color was also very nice as the objects that are red are usually things that you should pay attention to because they have significance later on or indicate a heightened emotional state.  The ones I can remember are the red doorknob and the wife, Olivia Williams.  After the events of the first part of the movie, she’s usually seen wearing red and, at the end of the movie, you figure out what the heightened emotional state she’d be in would be.

The only negative I’d say about this movie is that, once you’ve already seen it, the movie isn’t nearly as special.  Even though it’s over 10 years old, and I would assume almost everybody has seen it by now, I refuse to put the spoiler ending in this review.  I think it’s a huge douchey move to ruin it for someone too.  Eventually, there will be people who haven’t seen this movie because they’re only just coming to the age where they can watch it and I don’t want to be responsible for ruining it.  This is a fine movie with some good chills and creepiness that is a perfectly good movie to watch, but watching it for the first time when you don’t know what’s going to happen is sublime.  The first watch of this movie made it my favorite “horror” movie, but subsequent watches leaves it as only enjoyable and not nearly as epic.

The performances in this movie are also top notch.  Bruce Willis puts on by far his greatest performances to date.  He has to be serious, charming, and devastated at different times in the movie and I’ve still never seen him put on such a show before.  He’s great in action movies and all, but it doesn’t require nearly as much range from him so I would have suspected he wouldn’t be capable of it.  This movie also made Haley Joel Osment a household name for a good long time.  He was the pinnacle of the child actor until he pretty much fell off the face of the Earth and was replaced by dual Fannings.  He was absolutely fantastic in this movie.  He seemed constantly depressed and on edge, and his character would have good reason to be.  It’s a shame that he seemingly made such poor movie choices after this movie, and that his body grew up and his face didn’t, which makes him strange to look at today.  But he was an adorable kid that first showed up in the awesome movie Forrest Gump.  But besides Forrest Gump, The Sixth Sense, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (though I’ve never seen that), he’s never been in a movie rated higher than 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, and seemingly stopped working about 4 years ago.  I’m sure he’s plenty rich though, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.  He was nominated for an Academy Award, though, along with the person playing his mother, Toni Collette.  And with good reason there as well, because she was also fantastic as the working mom just trying to make it work with her outcast child.  But it may not have been that realistic of a performance because, if I had a kid that could talk to ghosts and I was dirt poor, my first thoughts would be “I’m gonna exploit the crap out of you, boy!”  Olivia Williams had a small part to the movie, but she did great at it.  On first viewing, I would’ve said she was a bitch to Bruce, but once the twist is revealed, you get to see the nuance to her performance and appreciate it much more.  Donnie Wahlberg deserves an honorable mention for his commitment to the part as well.  He lost all kinds of weight for the role; so much so that I didn’t even recognize him when I saw it.  He was very good also.

So there it is.  The end of the October Horror-thon with my favorite horror movie, The Sixth Sense.  The mixture of is fantastic story, epic twist, outstanding performances, and terrific cinematography will probably keep it my favorite horror movie of all time, regardless of the questionable nature of it’s “horror” title that I’ve bestowed on it.  The only problem I can think of to this movie is that it isn’t nearly as epic when you already know the ending.  So don’t be a dick and ruin this for someone if they haven’t seen it.  Look, I just did a review of over 1000 words and didn’t spoil it, so you can too.  And after that, just hope that Shyamalan can pull off another good movie before his career is over with all them Airbenders and Water Lady’s.  I give The Sixth Sense a “It’s getting cold” out of “Some magic’s real.”

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