HEREDITARY — Review by Susan Granger

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Australian actress Toni Collette becomes the new ‘scream queen’ in Ari Aster’s terrifying psychological thriller about parents left with a diabolical legacy after the family matriarch’s death. This ominous story begins with a terse eulogy for dementia-addled, 78 year-old Ellen Taper Leigh by her dry-eyed daughter Annie Graham (Collette), who describes her difficult mother as so secretive and suspicious that she won’t be missed by those left behind. Continue reading…

“Should I be sadder?” Annie asks her soft-spoken husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne).

Barely surviving a harrow childhood with a suicidal father, schizoid brother and this mysteriously remote mother, Annie is an artist who lives in an architecturally magnificent home in rural Utah, where she creates a mixed-media tableaux of tiny, detailed doll houses that are filled with miniature representations of herself.

One week after her mother’s burial, Annie discovers her secret journal about spiritualism and glimpses a barely visible phantom, her mother’s ghost.

Shortly after, when a bird flies into the window of the tree-house where Annie’s 13 year-old daughter Charlie (Millie Shapiro) likes to sleep, she calmly picks it up and cuts off its head with a pair of scissors. And Annie’s older son, Peter (Alex Wolff), a moody, pot-smoking high-school student, gets involved in a fatal car accident.

As part of her mourning, Annie goes to a grief-counseling group in which a participant relates how she contacted her dead son with the help of a medium. so Annie conjures up her own séance, trying to reach Charlie.

Meanwhile, Steve seems oblivious – totally unaware that supernatural forces may be at work, causing Annie’s extreme emotional agony.

Making his full-length feature directing debut, visually ambitious Ari Aster does a masterful job of creating a pervasive sense of menace, even if the middle section sags. Eventually, he stages a grisly, gory and over-the-top finale, musically punctuated by Judy Collins singing Joni Mitchell’s ballad “Both Sides Now.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Heredity” is a manipulatively subtle 7, scary stuff.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.