Author Archives: dangent280
“How Can We Win When Fools Can Be Kings..?”
Created in Devon but born on the world stage with their heightened sense of musical ridiculousness, alternative rock trio, Muse, bring their lavish extravagance to the big screen this week with the Drones World Tour, a ninety minute spectacle which merges footage from the titular tour in support of the 2015 album, Drones, as it glues together songs performed at three different venues in an attempt to offer the best musical and visual representation possible. Succeeding before with the likes of the Wembley Stadium based H.A.A.R.P and Live at Rome Olympic Stadium, the latter of which was shot completely in 4K, Drones World Tour takes a slightly different stance by strictly containing the footage within the confines of arenas, a decision which does indeed restrict the bombastic scale of Muse audiences many are used to, but on the other hand does allow for a much better sound quality and mix then previous examples of the band’s genuine outstanding ability when playing live. With the vocals and guitar antics of Matthew Bellamy finely tuned to match each other with a sense of rawness and expertise, the resulting equalisation of the film is undeniably its’ biggest strength, offering a genuine sense that the audience have been transmitted right into the heart of gig itself and touching distance away from each of the core members.
With the camera swinging between the trio, the audience and the rather wild stage set-up, floating, LED-sphere drones and all, the visuals of the performance are mesmerising enough even when the band themselves have chosen to understandably focus heavily on performances from the Drones album and leave behind the more well-respected, early tracks from the group, resulting in perhaps even the most dedicated Muse fan questioning the logic of two book-ended performances of the choir based “Drones” in favour of a “Stockholm Syndrome” or a “Plug in Baby”. That said, the one-two riff heavy opening of “Psycho” and “Reapers” wholeheartedly sets the tone for what lies ahead, with dark, catchy riffs being perfectly balanced with Bellamy’s falsetto, Christopher Wolstenholme’s under-appreciated bass work and Dominic Howard’s steady percussion, with the likes of “Hysteria”, “Knights of Cydonia” and “Time is Running Out” the standout examples of when the group all come together at the top of their respective games. Directed by long-term band accessory, Tom Kirk, whose previous credits also include directorial duties for a couple of tracks from Metallica’s latest album, Drones World Tour is space-rock at its’ most absurdly enjoyable, a movie undeniably for die-hard fans of the band’s work but most importantly, a movie which understands the necessity to make the viewer feel part of the action, a feat the movie manages with great success.
Overall Score: 8/10
“It’s Time To Make Some Wrong Things Right. Help Me Bring Supers Back Into The Sunlight…”
With the likes of Inside Out, Zootropolis and this year’s Coco categorically proving that the twentieth century has been open ground for a wide range of superb animation releases, the much anticipated return of the power-inflicted Parr family in Incredibles 2 after a prolonged fourteen year wait since their first appearance on the big screen back in 2004 mightily continues the winning streak which Disney is currently relishing in. Directed and written by Brad Bird, the brains behind the original, whose ventures in between the two films have included the rather enjoyable Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the not so enjoyable Tomorrowland, Incredibles 2 is a uproariously entertaining animated blockbuster, one which attempts to balance two separate story-lines as it revels in reverting particular familial stereotypes and one which ties into the conventional superhero mould by blending action spectacle with an abundance of rib-tickling humour, and whilst at times the twists and turns are rather unsurprising and the movie carries an overall feeling that two hours is far too long for most movies, let alone an animated feature, Brad Bird’s fourteen year project in the making does have flaws, but thankfully the many positives result in his latest feature being a damn fun ride.
Ditching the real life time gap and picking up three months after events of the first film, Bird’s screenplay sees the Parr family attempting to rebuild their life after the outlawing of superheroes, and with the help of Bob Odenkirk’s (Breaking Bad) Winston Deavor, a superhero-loving millionaire, the matriarchal figure of Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, The Big Sick) is placed front and centre of a scheme to reintroduce powered saviours back into favour of the world’s ever-watching eyes. With Helen’s absence therefore, the job of stay-at-home parent falls to Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson, Gold) who attempts to juggle the stress of managing his three children and wife’s new found success alongside the threat of the ominous Screenslaver, a tech-savvy terrorist type whose intentions seem to be aimed towards the newly popular band of superheroes. Jumping in and out of the two main narrative strands throughout the course of the movie, the primary superhero plot involving Elastigirl and her discovery of Screenslaver is solid enough fun, incorporating flashy and bright action set pieces including a high speed monorail chase and some epilepsy inducing boss battles, however the real winning streak of the movie falls in events back home with Mr. Incredible, particularly in the discovery of infant Jack-Jack’s new-found powers, an extended gag which offers a wide range of set pieces which genuinely land up there with some of the best on-screen comedy I have ever seen. With eye-catching animation, a heartfelt centrepiece message at the centre of the story and a heavy balance of enough there to fulfil both child and adult audiences alike, Incredibles 2 isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it offers enough of a good time to be more than worth a visit to see its’ ravishing pleasures.
Overall Score: 7/10
“If We Want To Save Our Country, We Must Release All Our Anger In One Night…”
With The Purge: Election Year correctly signalling the conclusion of a trilogy which had already outstayed its’ welcome after a triage of films which never really managed to balance the interesting socio-political ideas at the heart of the series with effective elements of horror, even if some of the genre-inspired masks were actually quite creepy, for reasons which can only be regarded as monetary, here we are once again with The First Purge, an unwarranted series prequel which showcases the events of the first ever Purge-related experiment as the idea is authorised for testing within the area of Staten Island, New York City. Written and produced by series stalwart James DeMonaco, who this time takes a backseat from directorial duties and instead hands the reigns to Fruitvale Station producer, Gerard McMurray, The First Purge is a languid, pointless and utterly worthless work of gratuitous nonsense which falls into the trap of its’ predecessors by simply exploiting its’ fundamental notional cornerstone in favour of graphic violence which is eagerly presented without any real sense of meaningful purpose, and even when the same can be said at times for the preceding three movies, McMurray’s take is the first entry to miss the mark in astronomical fashion.
With newcomer Y’Lan Noel’s Dmitri portrayed as the central hero of the piece, a character who earns his money through exploiting a poverty stricken community via drug dealing and murder, it’s fair to say that in terms of the movie’s sense of peril or threat, the radar lands on a resounding zilch, and even with the inclusion of Lex Scott Davis’ morally central, Nya, and brother Isaiah, as played by Joivan Wade (Doctor Who), the chance to break away from the two-dimensional characters in which the actors represent is never offered, resulting in a movie which is tonally cold and utterly un-engaging. With the movie also struggling to contain a lid on the various tonal strands it embarks on, with elements of horror, action and unwarranted comedy all jumbled together like a cinematic equivalent of spin art, the constant and untimely gags end up feeling jarring, with a scene of a sexual assault in particular concluding in a chuckle-some Trump-targeted pop which literally had my mind exercising somersaults of disbelief. With Marisa Tomei (Spider-Man: Homecoming) being criminally underused in favour of happy-go-lucky drug dealers and endless cheap jump scares, The First Purge is a wasted opportunity to represent the series with a new, interesting light, the type of movie which ironically enough, should be purged from our cinema screens as violently and quickly as possible.
Overall Score: 3/10
“I Sailed Halfway Around The World To Find You…”
With Icelandic filmmaker, Baltasar Kormákur, having a recent cinematic back catalogue which can arguably be regarded as somewhat patchy, the 2 Guns and Everest director returns this week with Adrift, a romantic survival drama based on the true story of reckless adventurers, Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp, as they venture into the Pacific Ocean in order to sail a luxury sail boat from Tahiti to San Diego and end up coming face to face with a destructive and dangerous hurricane. Based on Tami Oldham’s own memoir “Red Sky in Mourning”, co-written with Susea McGearhart and published in 1998, Kormákur’s latest follows a familiar “lost-at-sea” narrative as it attempts to juggle the central relationship between Oldham and Sharp, played on-screen by Shailene Woodley (Snowden) and Sam Claflin (My Cousin Rachel) respectively, with a hard-edged tale of survival, and whilst the performances of the central duo are pleasantly believable and committed, particularly Woodley who gives her best on-screen performance since Snowden, Adrift is annoyingly a middling, overly mediocre affair which features zero sense of peril and an overriding sense that we have been here many, many times before.
With a time-jumping narrative which continually switches between the past and the present, the historical scenes sees the core relationship between Sharp and Oldham begin to blossom in the most cringey, overly saccharin way possible, with even Oldham’s character in one scene apologising for being too “cheesy”, but even with a screenplay which feels very much the typeface template for approaching on-screen Hollywood depictions of love, it’s to the leading duo’s credit that you still successfully believe in the pair as a genuine couple hunger for exploration and excitement on the rough seas. Cue the scenes of the present and it is here where Adrift ultimately and strangely becomes ever-so cliched, with the movie somewhat sitting between the all-out physicality of All is Lost and the ripe sentimentality of Titanic, but all-the-while feeling incredibly boring and wholly un-engaging even when Woodley gives it her all, peanut butter covered fingers and all. With a concluding twist which not only feels convoluted, cheap and utterly ridiculous, such a black hole of jarring inconsistency raises questions about whether the majority of the film was ultimately needed, but with a resounding sense that both Claflin and Woodley somewhat save the day, Adrift sort of gets past the finish line, albeit struggling and hanging on for dear life.
Overall Score: 5/10
“We Lose! He Beat Us! The Game Is Over..!”
Beginning his big-screen career with a collection of Hollywood stars and a mildly comedic central gag to play with, debutante director, Jeff Tomsic, adapts Russell Adams’ 2013 article, “It Takes Planning, Caution To Avoid Being It”, an account of a true story published in The Wall Street Journal which focused on a group of life-long friends who spend one month each year playing the titular game of tag with overly dedicated and sophisticated measures in order to succeed. With a band of usual American comedy suspects including Ed Helms (Father Figures), Hannibal Buress (Blockers) and Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street), Tomsic’s movie follows the reunion of four particularly immature friends as they team up in order to finally “tag” Jeremy Renner’s (Captain America: Civil War) swaggering, soon-to-be married Jerry before his self proclaimed retirement at the end of their chosen month in which the game takes place. With a handful of child-like slapstick set pieces, seething bromantic chemistry and an overarching sensibility which relies on its’ audience to be as similarly immature as its’ leading characters, Tag is indeed a solid comedic winner, one which although suffers slightly from a violently overstretched central gag and a couple of strange narrative add-ons, works due to a likeable array of personalities and sharp, well-timed gags which managed to make even this hard chestnut giggle with childish amusement.
With an opening act which introduces the central relationship between Helms’ Hogan Malloy and Jon Hamm’s (Baby Driver) Bob Callahan, a successful businessman who hides his inner paranoia and low self-esteem behind sharp suits and formal haircuts, the movie’s first set piece in which Malloy takes a job as a janitor at Callahan’s place of work in order to tag him pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the movie, with the zippy one hundred minute runtime being crammed with slapstick inspired chase sequences which move from golf courses to wedding receptions as particular characters attempt to evade the embarrassment of being it. With Renner as the self-proclaimed master of the game whose transition from child to adult has remained free of ever being tagged, his planned wedding is the battleground for one last attempt, and whilst Renner is only used sparingly at times in favour of the core quartet of friends, his performance is joyously entertaining, with Renner clearly embracing the sheer nonsensical nature of the script which he is working with. With a concluding attempt to pull at the heartstrings, the movie does finish on surprisingly rank terms, particularly when the tone of the movie pretty much throughout is utter silliness, but within the rather middling genre of contemporary American comedies, Tag is trashy fun which passes the time rather neatly.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You Wanna See This Thing Through? I’m Gonna Have To Get, Dirty…”
With Denis Villeneuve showing a wider audience what was to come of his expert film-making prowess back in 2015 with Sicario, a expertly crafted, white-knuckle thriller which laid the basis for the similarly masterful Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 in terms of what the French-Canadian could achieve with the right backing, arguably the more impressive element of the feature was Taylor Sheridan, an American most famous at the time for his stint on Sons of Anarchy but whose screenplay for Sicario was both smart and compelling, one swiftly followed by equally impressive screenplays for both Hell or High Water and Wind River, capping off a trio of superbly written movies. each with a dedicated lust for heavy doses of substance and style in equal measure. Returning to writing duties again for the eagerly anticipated Sicario sequel, subtitled Soldado, the absence of Villeneuve means Italian director Stefano Sollima (Suburra) takes charge of a movie which continues the oppressive, ominous tone of the original whilst working through a genuinely thrilling narrative, one which sees the return of Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War) and Benicio del Toro (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick as they attempt to orchestrate a war between the Mexican cartels after they are seen to be aiding agents of ISIS cross the border in order to carry out their destructive message, and whilst Soldado doesn’t entirely hit the heavy heights of its’ near-perfect predecessor come the end credits, Sollima’s movie is still an unnerving, powerful work of war at its’ most darkest and lawless.
Beginning with a catalogue of terrorist related events, including a jaw-dropping and horrific supermarket explosion in which the camera lingers closely from outside through every familiar step of contemporary terror, Soldado quickly re-introduces the reunion of Graver and Gillick as they are handed the freedom to do as they please in order to combat the ever-increasing Mexican cartel presence on the US-border which has now taken extra precedence due their involvement in potential terror activities. With a central narrative which sees the kidnapping of the young, spoiled daughter of a renowned Mexican cartel boss, one which ultimately results in in-house allegiances being put to the test, Sheridan’s screenplay also follows closely the exploits of newcomer Elijah Rodriguez’s Miguel as he crawls up the ranks of the cartel’s people smuggling operation, and whilst the sequel doesn’t entirely hit the brooding, ambiguity which drove through the entirety of its’ predecessor up until the very end, the tight-knit, unbearable tension does manage to completely follow over, rearing its’ head throughout a high proportion of a movie which aside from one sarcastic aside, primarily holds its’ tone as completely and utterly serious. With a Michael Mann-esque, militaristic sensibility which sees countless shots of rampaging army vehicles cruising across the vacant, perilous landscapes of the US/Mexican border, Soldado is wickedly spectacular in its’ approach to action set pieces, with the piercing sound of bullets echoing the overripe mixing of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk merging spectacularly with endless cinematic screenshots of whirring helicopters, over-head drones and enough firepower to start and end a small coup.
With the inclusion of much more lusciously orchestrated action scenes second time around, the question remains whether the overall screenplay deserves such luxuries, and even as an overall body of work Soldado doesn’t piece together as tightly or rigidly as Sicario, with particular crucial plot threads concluding rather suddenly without any real sense of full-blooded purpose, the avenues which Sheridan’s writing takes us undoubtedly suits the bleak mould of the series, particularly in the movies’ penchant for gut-wrenching murder sequences and a concluding near-death experience which undeniably ranks up there with one of the more brutal character arcs in recent history. With Brolin and del Toro on superb, angst-ridden, macho-growling form, with the latter having much more space for a deeper layer of examination this time around as his character’s uncertain, ambiguous nature is slowly scraped at and given light, young Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight) as the similarly tough Isabela Reyes gives an equally impressive performance as the daughter of the cartel boss responsible for the death of Alejandro’s wife and daughter. With a bruising, battling, war torn sensibility which is as tough at times as it is riotously engaging and enjoyable, Soldado is a sequel success story which both pays homage to its’ predecessor with utmost respect whilst developing its’ characters in fascinating ways, and with the possibility of a third film coming to nicely round the series off as a trilogy, one can only query how much further Sheridan can continue his winning scripture streak.
Overall Score: 8/10
“No World They Create For Us Can Compete With The Real One…”
With the finale of Westworld’s debut season a fascinating, masterful and downright majestic ninety minutes of television which not only offered up more questions than answers within a series which was getting more and more renowned for having more narrative rabbit holes than some audiences could feasibly cope with, but more importantly, set the base line for the second round of stories which would ultimately follow, “The Passenger”, the similarly feature length concluding arc of the show’s second season undoubtedly had a hard act to follow, particularly when the preceding nine episodes this time around have left arguably a wider amount of certain story-lines teetering on the edge. With deaths aplenty, brain-melting exposition and enough shocking twists to make M. Night Shyamalan bow to exhaustion, Westworld’s latest closing chapter was a plot heavy but familiarly beautiful example of science fiction at its’ most ludicrous and inventive, one which once again boldly offered up more question marks than straightforward answers in an attempt to lay the mouthwatering stepping stones for the future of the show which on the basis of its’ ever expanding nature, has endless possibilities lying ahead.
With the majority of the plot focused on a heavy proportion of the main characters converging at the Valley Beyond, now envisioned as a mystical, Stargate-esque gateway which the hosts enter in order to “free” their minds from the prison of the park and into a virtual reality free from their physical self, the chance to see a culmination of Maeve, Akecheta and the redeemed figure of Simon Quarterman’s Lee Sizemore all having their own particular second season character arcs come to a end was particularly well managed, even when after the sheer mastery of episode eight, Akecheta ultimately seemed a tad bit wasted over the course of the entire run amidst a few fatal plot holes such as the extent of Maeve’s Neo-like powers and the issue of why not everyone seemed to be effected by the Clementine spreading virus which swiftly turned the hosts into 28 Days Later inspired rampaging murderers. With the pace of the episode not allowing audiences the chance to come up for fresh air at all, the bulky exposition section involving Delores, Bernard and Charlotte Hale’s band of Delos security did ultimately seem rather mind-melting at times, particularly when we see Delores and Bernard jump into the storage pump of the guests and reunite with a virtual manifestation of Logan who proceeds to explain the predictability and simplicity of mankind in a elongated set piece which unfavourably reminded me of the convoluted Architect scene in The Matrix Reloaded, and whilst particular resolutions were brought to the table, their is no doubting that “The Passenger” is the sort of episode that requires second, third and even fourth viewings in order to dissect the entirety of the subject matter it attempts to portray.
With Westworld’s second season in general improving with every step, “The Passenger” reminded that even when the show is at its’ most extreme in terms of baffling its’ audiences, the beauty in its’ construction deserves to be wildly lauded, and with soaring, stunning cinematography once again and a masterful collection of musical pieces by Ramin Djawadi, including a concluding reworked version of Radiohead’s “Codex”, the show continues to be one of the most vividly rewarding televisual experiences of the moment, one which challenges works of cinema for sheer, resounding spectacle. With twist after twist and the finality of death not strictly being adhered to, the episodes’ final twenty minutes was undoubtedly close to pushing the panic button at times in terms of swaying from the realms of plausibility, but with a joyously entertaining turn of events which sees our favourite hosts transfer from one world to another and the fate of William/The Man in Black being well and truly thrown up into the air, “The Passenger” concluded a series by adhering to the show’s characteristic of being at times remarkable and challenging in equal measure, but with curious possibilities lying ahead to be explored, Westworld finished in a way which every season should by leaving the audience seriously wanting more.
Overall Episode Score: 9/10
Overall Season Score: 8.5/10
“We Will Not Be The Prime Suspects…”
With Steven Soderbergh’s ice-cool Oceans Eleven back at the start of the twentieth a contemporary remake of the 1960 Rat Pack-led movie of the same name which managed to not only work exceptionally well to both critics and audiences alike, but managed to create a further two big-screen releases with its’ staggeringly star-studded cast, the release of Ocean’s 8 follows the blueprint of 2016’s Ghostbusters by being a franchise spin-off/remake which modifies the primary gender of the film’s preceding it from predominantly male to female. With the notion of gender-modification on-screen something of which I’m entirely supportive of, with the film industry still way behind in terms of equal pay and equal opportunities even in a post-Weinstein cinematic era, the real question remains whether the final product is good enough to warrant a continuation of the franchise in the first place, and with a stellar, starry cast, an abundance of flashy style and some interesting plot developments, Ocean’s 8 is an enjoyable caper-based romp, one which although sacrifices deep characterisation in favour of simply getting on with the job at hand, is a more than capable treading of old ground which harmlessly passes the time but still does not hit the gold standard of the original remake which still remains the best in the franchise thus far.
Directed by Gary Ross of The Hunger Games fame, Ocean’s 8 follows Sandra Bullock’s (Gravity) Debbie Ocean, the freshly released ex-con whose family tree burdens her with a pre-conception of her immediate return to crime as soon as she gets back on her feet in the outside world. Surprise, surprise therefore that with the help of a merry band of fellow criminals including Cate Blanchett’s (Thor: Ragnarok) leather jacket wearing Lou and Sarah Paulson’s (The Post) suburban housewife turned profiteer, Tammy, Ocean immediately plans to steal a staggeringly expensive necklace from Anne Hathaway’s (Interstellar) air-headed Daphne Kluger during the annual star-studded Met Gala. With a silly, plot-hole ridden screenplay, one which disregards any meaningful character backstory whatsoever and one which leans too heavily on a reliance that the audience will agree to leave their brain at the door, Ocean’s 8 is the cinematic equivalent of an episode of Hustle, a sometimes sharp, quip laden flash-a-thon which is bolstered by a fundamentally appealing cast who simply are there to get the job done and have fun whilst doing it, and whether or not you can bypass the sheer stupidity of the central heist is the real measure of how you may or may not enjoy the film, but for a harmless slice of popcorn entertainment, Ocean’s 8 is far from the worst entry in the franchise and passed the time rather solidly.
Overall Score: 6/10
“The Only Real World Is The One Outside These Borders…”
With the entirety of last week’s episode of Westworld beautifully dedicated to Zahn McClarnon’s Akecheta and the origin of the Ghost Nation, the penultimate episode of the show’s wonderful second season resorts back to the multi-layered narrative strands which the series is renowned for, exploring a deeper characterisation of a key central character whilst attempting to lay out the explosive turn of events which are guaranteed to kick off in the series finale next week. With William/The Man in Black taking centre stage for the majority of the episode, several interesting notions which had previously been glanced at in the past were granted much needed exploration, particularly in regards to the previously ambiguous event of William’s wife’s mysterious suicide and his own dedicated purpose to the world which he has created. With William’s wife, the offspring of James Delos and sister of Logan, presented as a troubled, conflicted alcoholic whose uncertainty of her own husband forces her into a feeling of prolonged anger and hate, William’s revelation of his natural place in Westworld and embracing of his inner darkness acts as the deciding turn for her death, a decision which undeniably still haunts both William and daughter Emily.
With Emily’s own uncertainty about her father resulting in her attempting to save him in both physical and spiritual senses, her own discovery of her father’s true nature also led to a shocking conclusion, one which not only conclusively presented William as being well and truly lost and swallowed up by his inner turmoil but one which begged the question of whether William himself is human or host, a question echoed by the repeated voice of Emily who stated “if you keep pretending, you’re not going to remember who you are.” With the backstory of William’s wife also highlighting once again Ford’s knowledge of the “project” within the “valley beyond”, now confirmed to be a radical exploration of cognition replication in order to change guests into hosts, his personal struggle of being forced out of his own creation led to the promise of “one more game” and perhaps the fundamental reasoning for Ford’s willingness to facilitate the host’s defection, but with Bernard attempting to rid himself of Ford’s control in order to save Elsie, there still remains questions regarding Ford’s ultimate park endgame. Concluding with a rather emotional death and the sense that particular characters, both human and host, seem to be close to the edge of complete and utter desolation, the penultimate episode of Westworld was yet another majestically crafted hour of science fiction which sets up a concluding chapter which will simply be unmissable.
Overall Score: 9/10
“I Just Don’t Want To Put Any More Stress On My Family…”
Within the pantheon of modern-day horror cinema releases, only a few since the turn of the twenty first century have truly managed to encompass the sense of true terror that only the best examples of the genre always create, and with the overly worn out “cattle-prod” franchises still continuing to be admired by particular audiences who believe horror cinema simply relies on cheap jump scares, the rare chance a particular filmmaker comes along and offers something fresh to the genre is one that should always be admired and supported. Step forward director Ari Aster, a young American filmmaker whose debut feature, Hereditary, conforms to a style of horror cinema which is as tantalising to see explored within a mainstream setting as it is genuinely unsettling and and down-right evil, a film which wears its’ obvious inspirations on its’ sleeve but still manages to feel both unique and original, and one with a particular ominous and uncomfortable tone which for some, may seem just too much to handle. With superb performances from its’ central familial quartet, staggeringly unsettling imagery and set pieces which verge on the edge of full-throttle nightmare, Aster’s big-screen breakthrough is not only a perfectly constructed movie but a masterful example of the horror genre at its’ most inventive and gut-wrenching.
Beginning in a familiar, ghost story-esque setting, the death of the Graham family matriarch brings with it supernatural stirrings, unravelled secrets and a claustrophobic sense of death’s presence remaining within the confines of an Amytiville-inspired household, complete with creaky doors, unkempt attic’s and tree house which emits a seething, blood-red shadow whenever occupied. With Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) as Annie, the grieving mother of two whose skills as a miniaturist artist seem to help her cope with the sudden loss of her secretive mother, her newly found role as head of the family brings with it startling realisations about the previous pastimes of her mother as she finds solace in the hands of Ann Dowd’s Joan, a similarly grieving mother figure who attempts to aid Annie through her struggles. With the screenplay beginning with a contemplation on the effect of death and the psychological power it can evoke within the human spirit in a very Don’t Look Now thematic sensibility, the early ghostly imagery lays a solid foundation of skin-crawling creepiness which echoes the oddity of Personal Shopper and the horror-realism of Robert Eggers’ The Witch, and with the first act fixed on developing the destructive nature of a family teetering on the edge of collapse, the cold and brooding tone of the first hour is well executed, even when at times the editing pace holds particular camera shots for just a few seconds too long.
After a powerful and stunningly played midway twist, one which leaves you in a gasping and spell-binding state of shock for pretty much the remainder of the movie, the increasing sense of dread which occurs as the direction of the action switches from ghostly chiller to full-on, teeth-rattling nightmare is simply unbearable at times in the best way horror-movie way possible, and with a staggeringly uncertain plot direction, the tension which transpires from a culmination of eerie soundtrack and imagery leaves you constantly on edge as you attempt to piece together and understand where the plot is ultimately heading. Whilst the movie does cave in at times to generic conventions which weaken its’ claim as “The Exorcist of the twentieth century”, particularly in its’ use of the tried and tested depiction of seances, the final act of Hereditary offers one of the most genuinely unnerving and oppressive works of cinema I have ever seen, and with a final twisty resolution which obviously picks at the likes of The Wicker Man and Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, Ari Aster’s stunning and deliciously twisted debut is a dark and twisted assault on the senses, a horror movie for genuine horror fans and a movie which features one of the most iconic leading genre performances by Toni Collette in years. Dread it, run from it, Hereditary still arrives and stamps its’ mark as the horror movie to experience this year.