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Hereditary’s fear is exhaustive, and it’s not illicit. To Hereditary, using jump scares is a cinematic sin. Instead, dread is a presence, lingering in a holding pattern over a family cursed following the death of a grandmother. That evil grows with time.
To that respect, Hereditary is an enticing effort. The use of this genre, and in this context, is unique, personal even. Newcomer Ari Aster presents a work of peculiar grief and emotional breakdowns, using the paranormal as a figment for a family’s inability to deal with loss. Babadook took a similar approach; it’s also the better film.
Much of Hereditary leans on Toni Collete. She’s sensational here. A mother overcome by mourning, her slow descent toward total madness is a convincing one. Gabriel Byrne as her husband and Alex Wolff as their son also fit. Also, newcomer Milly Shapiro, the young daughter, who takes a creepy kid role and turns it into a stellar, distinctive character. Aster’s cast is marvelous.
… the art film aesthetic is a drain on pacing
… the art film aesthetic is a drain on pacing
Those pieces in place, Hereditary goes for the slow creep. The script builds a disjointed family unit, unwilling to speak to one another about their fraying mental health. As the presence of a supernatural force begins to install itself, Hereditary begins to erode. While still sure of itself enough to avoid standard studio frights, the art film aesthetic is a drain on pacing. Hereditary chokes itself on long takes – of which the cast is capable of holding – but a force on audience patience.
When time for the third act to win out, where people begin clinging to walls and endure psychotic breaks, it’s formulaic. Supernatural happenings visually represent the loss of control, then leading to an eye-rolling climax that appears primed for sequel bait rather than legitimate closure.
Aster digs at the American family and a stubborn inability to admit faults or declining mental health. That’s clever. The routine finish is not. After drifting through the on again, off again and even draining pace, to await a derivative chase through a home’s hallways doesn’t seem worth it. Genre wins rather than Aster’s creativity. That’s a shame given the strength of the concept.
Video (4K UHD)
Hereditary is an interesting UHD case study. Dolby Vision offers the deep color pass, but this is not an effort conducive to such a technology. When Hereditary begins, color takes on an artificial look. Primaries turn bright, but unconvincing. It’s as if no deep color was applied. Doing comparison with the Blu-ray, that thought holds. There’s an intentional artificiality to many scenes, occasionally shifting to something expected from the technology. It’s scene-to-scene.
Note there’s an uncomfortable pallor to scenes in the home. That turns flesh tones ghastly, and with purpose. It’s a ghostly look. Exteriors of the home, set among trees, reach for pleasant greenery, if also impinged by that yellow slant.
A 2K source manages extensive definition in close. Hereditary uses numerous extended close-ups. All of them exude detail. So do exteriors, rich in treelines.
Artificial grain sits over each scene, but it works as emulated film. Lionsgate’s encode is appealing, avoiding any roadblocks. That’s helped by dense, rich black levels, increasingly critical as the material draws on the absence of light. Boldness helps though too, with fire and candles illuminating the imagery.
Extensively textured, the pleasing high-resolution presentation offers great detail. Close-ups manage superlative, clean texture behind an encode capable of resolving a mild digital grain.
Excellent, bright color is notable from the outset. That’s helped by warmth in the contrast, continuing indoors. Saturation begins to fall once inside the home, turning toward a yellowed hue for effect. Even as this impacts flesh tones, it’s an effectual (and purposeful) turn.
Both formats use the same DTS-HD mix. Often employing sublime quiet, this isn’t a rocking mix. It’s a subtle affair. In the soundtrack often sits a rapid heartbeat, gently rocking the low-end as Collete begins her meltdown. A tongue click, a tick of a key character, randomly jumps from a discrete channel. That’s eerie.
The openness of the family home brings in a hollow echo to much of the dialog. That seeps into the stereos and rears, if lightly so. That’s enough atmosphere.
Cursed is the lone featurette, running 20-minutes as it delves into the making of and themes of Hereditary. Deleted scenes go on for 16-minutes. A series of stills displaying the miniature work is worth peeking at.
While an interesting use of the genre, Hereditary is a slog to get through as a family unwinds from their grief while succumbing to the supernatural.
User Review( votes)
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