I was waiting for the real monster. I love this movie -- It's so scary. Why? I do not know if I am prepared to answer that question. The movie is concerned with much of the same concerns some of my short stories are: how does illness transform and transcend generations? Does it?
Assuming it does, how does that change us, and predate our destinies? With Hereditary its a foregone conclusion, I'll grant you, it's hereditary after all. And yet when it spins off the rails in the last 30 minutes, can we really be sure we are seeing reality? Or is it just the fevered dreams of people waiting in line to receive the baton marking the arrival of their inheritance?
It takes you fully into that dimension: there are headless bodies positioned to prayer and silent participants awaiting the coming of whatever conclusion they await. The camera lingers on their naked bodies, their unworldly smiles indicating a private knowledge witheld and secret. They are unbelievably creepy, the way they seem saturated with moonlight and yet in recession, never really quite sure they're actually there.
The picture the stands out most from previews is not the toy house, with half of it inverted, but Toni Collette's outsized scream: what am I seeing? And how can this be true?
Is that how schizophenia works? Or any form of mental illness? My cards sit with dementia, and seeing how that wreaks a social cost. But this movie makes crystal clear the same weight, the soul-hurt that schizophrenia wages. The loss of trust between partners and loved ones is just incinerate: the burned remains of all that weight and shared experience.
Is the mother attempting to save the son in the end, with her see-sawing motions of the piano wire? Are we even meant to know for certain? She is clearly not in control of her body, but is she in control of her mind? This to me is the central question the movie poses, and it structures the decay of the Nuclear Family in such a devestating way it is easy to lose sight of: the way Gabriel Byrne's Steve holds desperately onto family-making norms until he breaks, and is undone in a flash because of it.
The moments where the mother confesses the truth to her son -- Toni Collete has never been better, so devestated by the very words she utters - are the lynchpin to the story, and the vessel the mother represents in the end: has this been attempted before with her brothers, with her friend-in-grief Joan, and what exactly is the body count?
The film reminded me of another recent horror movie I saw -- The VVitch (2017), and how its characters end up in the clutch of the very self-fulfilling prophecy the film set us against. Are we afraid of ourselves, our loved ones and our father's houses? Do we trust them, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy? Can we forgive them?
Hereditary says: you're fucked. Probably not.