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31 Films of Halloween: Day 10

October 10, 2018

 Wednesday, October 10th


 Today's selection, "Hereditary", was one of the most divisive horror films of 2018. Horror forums are still arguing over whether it was a terrible, and unintentionally hilarious film, or one of the greatest horror films ever made. Arthouse horror is really big in the 2010's, and A24 is leading the way. There was the same sort of talk surrounding "The Witch" a couple years back, and if you checked out our write up and review of that, you know where we stand on it. Jess and I also loved "It Comes at Night" so, the atmospheric horror is something that works really well for us. I think all of the A24 films have been paving the way for Ari Aster's modern masterpiece, "Hereditary".


Toni Collette's performance as Annie in this film is breathtaking. I've been impressed with great performances in Horror before with Mia Farrow, Ellen Burstyn, Janet Leigh, and Anthony Hopkins, but what Collette achieved with her range across the emotional spectrum was simply amazing. Millie Shapiro as Charlie came as a shock to me as well. After seeing the film, you should look up interviews with her. She is not who you think she is, and it's impressive how much she stretched to absolutely terrify me in this role. 


"Hereditary" is a film about a family who are pawns in a hopeless machine. Everything that is going to happen to them during the running time has been pre-ordained by actions beyond their control, occurring before the Grandmother died, whose obituary opens the film. I think this is where some of the divide occurs on this film. Many are disturbed by the devastating emotional drama that kicks off the first hour of the film. The characters are all being put in position for the insane conclusion to the film. For all the perceived slowness of the first two acts, that third one really lights off some fireworks.


The final 40 minutes of the film are some of the most tense I have experienced in the theater, and what drew me to see it 3 times during its initial run. Not only was Ari able to keep the tension high for that extended act, he created one of the most memorable, and heartbreaking sequences I've ever seen in a horror film. Every time I went to see this, someone broke down sobbing during what I'll call the "hospital drive". Peter's reaction to it, how he follows the example of detachment his father has laid out for him, and Toni's response to finding out what happened just destroys people. It's the patience used by the filmmaker that really made that a home run, going against the conventional urge to break everything up with dialog or different points of view. 


I've heard complaints that much of that is not justified in the first acts of the film, but it absolutely is. The forces controlling the situation are rooted in mischief, and that explains much of what goes on. There are signs everywhere in the start of the film, letterings on the wall, people that show up in strategic places like funerals, and support groups. While watching the film at home with headphones on (Jess was studying), it really sounded like an incantation is being given at the support group before Annie gets close enough to understand what is being said. It's extremely creepy at this point, and was already burrowed under my skin by this point


It's amazing how many different ways this film can be read. It's a startling horror film, a great exploration of mental illness and generational abuse, it's even a dark or unintentional comedy to some. For me, it was the best representation of evil on the screen since "The Exorcist". Even the score to this one gets under my skin when it's on. This is a 5 out of 5 star movie for me. Even if people hated this film, it has still elicited a passionate response for them. I wonder sometimes if people mistake disturbing for bad, and this film might be the perfect test case for that theory. That, and a study the uncomfortable laughter that is elicited from witnessing traumatic situations. 


"Masters of Horror: Sick Girl"

 Angela Bettis brings to life lonely entomologist Ida Teeter in Lucky McKee's contribution to "Masters of Horror". The 10th episode of this series was supposed to be directed by Roger Corman, who truly is a master, but he stepped down at the last minute. Lucky was able to step in, and bring much of his independent, quirky style to this chapter. Having directed her in the perfectly offbeat, but criminally under seen "May", re-teaming Bettis and McKee was brilliant to make up for any lack of prep time that may have happened. Together, they make beautiful music in this mini film.


Ida Teeter is an entomologist who is just looking for love. She doesn't fit into the mainstream world as a lesbian, and also a woman who has an apartment filled with bugs as pets. They're all in their own little terrariums, so they aren't any more dangerous (usually) than most of the other pets. Her Landlady takes issue with the pets, and her lifestyle, as she's not a fan of anything that is out of the ordinary. The Landlady also makes it apparent that she isn't a fan of her preteen niece's infatuation with Ida. The preteen looks up to her as a strong influence as a female scientist, and takes it to the adorable extreme of dressing as a ladybug whenever she is on screen.


Before a promising date, Ida receives a strange package containing a mystery bug. We only see from the bugs POV, as it quickly escapes from where it's being stored. Even though we don't see it for most of the picture, we know that this is a monstrous bug, that is up to no good. This is a wonderful creature feature with an LBGT positive influence, and impeccable comic timing. The date goes very well, too well, and the film is propelled forward in a very intelligent way. It also works as a cautionary tale for lonely people against throwing ourselves too quickly into relationships before we know who someone truly is, or what their motivations are.


Since this is an anthology series, some people might want to just pick and choose which ones to watch, and this is one I would really recommend. The gore isn't off the charts, and the sexuality is fun in an 80's sort of way that is more forward thinking than that time period. I wish Lucky made more films, "May" was one of my favorites from the early 2000's. If you haven't seen that one, it's another great one to track down as a companion piece to this. 


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