MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Stay on target Is Hereditary good?Yes.Is it scary?Scared the bejesus outta me.Oh! So what’s it about?That’s sort of hard to say without giving things away, honestly – though we can certainly try up to a point.Lay it on me.Okay: The film stars Toni Colette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff and Millie Shapiro are the mom, dad, son and daughter (respectively) comprising an upper-class family ensconced in a gorgeous rustic McMansion in rural Utah apparently paid for mainly by mom’s career as a work-from-home artist specializing in disturbingly elaborate miniatures depicting her life. Specifically her difficult relationship with her own mother, who recently passed away from cancer and whom we learn was psychologically abusive toward her and uncomfortably manipulative of her grandchildren along with leading a secret inner life that much of the family only vaguely understands. But even if not particularly well-liked, her death has left a grim presence hanging over the family… exacerbating rifts between them and bringing long-buried resentments to the surface.Ah, so we’re doing the “horror-as-metaphor” thing?…maybe. Getting any more specific about what is or isn’t “really” going on would be verging on spoiler territory. And I almost hesitate to suggest that it CAN be spoiled since it’s entirely possible that the whole reason Hereditary’s unceasing unpredictability and omnipresent storytelling gear-shifts worked so well for me is that I didn’t even know this was a movie I was supposed to be expecting anything other than a straightforward plot progression. But yeah, I guess it’s not giving anything “away” to confirm that the main thematic/aesthetic focus is playing around with the blurry lines between the way the scars of family dysfunction can make us feel like we’re being haunted by malevolent echoes from the past and… possibly being actually haunted by malevolent echoes from the past.Fair enough. Can we talk about tone, at least – as in what “type” of horror movie I’m in for? I’ve heard this referred as “arthouse horror,” for one…When it comes to so-called “art house” horror movies, everyone is always trying to make either The Shining or The Exorcist, American cinema’s twin benchmarks for films that manage to straddle the line between bloody, shock-driven setpiece horror and meditative dramatic narratives about faith family and universal psychological anxieties. I’m not 100% sold that this belongs on the pantheon with either of them, but it’s easily one of the most successful attempts at hitting that specific vibe that anyone has managed in years. Extreme shocker violence, unnerving psychological horror, eyebrow-raising violations of “you can’t do that” narrative taboos and realistic, relatable human drama – that’s about the mix we’re talking… until it’s not.Meaning?That it’s also got at least a toe dipped for necessity in the water of postmodernism – in as much as it’s counting on most people who’d be watching to have either seen or absorbed via cultural osmosis The Shining, Exorcist, Amityville, Rosemary’s Baby, Sixth Sense, The Omen… the whole rest of “The Canon.” Basically, and writer/director Ari Aster seems to take deliberately sadistic delight in using genre-signifiers and our expectations therewith against the audience. Oh, you think you know where this is going because you’ve SEEN a Spooky Kid movie before. Or a Witchcraft movie before, or a Satanic Cult movie before, or a Haunted House movie before, or a Possession movie, or a Gaslighting Conspiracy movie, or a Main Character Doesn’t Know They’re Actually The Crazy One movie, or even an Any One Of Those Things As Metaphor For Familial Dysfunction movie, or whatever it is you THINK it is you’re watching here? Well, think again.Got it. How’s the cast?Very good! Collette is, of course, assigned much of the heavy-lifting as a protagonist who becomes gradually less “sympathetic” the more she becomes “understandable” (which in a way might be the biggest taboo the film ends up breaking, considering how Hollywood movies have come to embrace the gospel that emotional transparency is always an innate good in and of itself). But it’s Wolff who ends up the surprising standout when one considers the near-unthinkable notes he’s asked to play once the actual plot comes into focus. Credit also to Byrne for bringing humanity to an initially thankless straight-man role, and to Shapiro for finding new places to go with one of the horror genre’s most worn-out cliches: The creepy little kid someone should really be keeping a closer eye on.So it comes recommended?Very much. I suspect there’ll be some blowback on this one, considering the “You didn’t warn me THAT was in the movie!” factor and the gradual build from Shyamalan-esque somber realism to batshit-nuts nightmare plunge – everyone says they want a modern answer to Exorcist or The Shining but forget what an assaultive punch to the face of the audience films like that were received as in their day. Hereditary does a good job looking safe, posh and classy… but it’s here to rip your damn head off, and it does a near-perfect job of it. Check it out – if you dare.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.