Hereditary review

Hereditary, Director Ari Aster’s bold directorial debut, has achieved global word of mouth. Following its midnight screening at Sundance word quickly spread about the scale of real horror on offer here; a genre triumph that echoed The Exorcist. Buzz about a film doesn’t always serve it well though, particularly when it sets expectations sky high. So while Hereditary doesn’t quite serve up a complete slice of sinister cinematic horror, it does triumph as an indie film that has garnered the uninterrupted attention of mainstream audiences.

The narrative is open to interpretation but its central themes are that of grief, family torment and an underlying unease that centres around distrust. The real horror moments come in seeing Collette’s Annie break down following a tragic accident, her son’s fear of being guilty and unloved, and of not having control of that which is determined to unfold.

Director Aster takes a slow-burn approach, allowing events to unfold at a frustratingly slow pace. Had the flick been sold as a tense thriller rather than a psychological horror, the jump scares, clever camera tricks and  haunting set pieces would deliver a fuller effect. But these moments are fleeting, and they don’t achieve the impact they would were they unexpected, and you’re ultimately left wanting events to shuffle on faster.

Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne support newcomers Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, but Byrne isn’t given nearly enough screen time. Collette is, as always, a gem. Channeling raw emotion as a grieving mother, her role as Annie is demanding – and perhaps the most terrifying element of the whole feature – but she never falters.

The final twenty minutes delivers a series of eye-covering moments which ultimately descends into a strange and slightly disappointing finale. Genre cliches continually threaten to creep in, but they never overwhelm the power of the bleak aesthetic or the goosebump-inducing score – this isn’t any old horror fare, Aster leans more towards art house tropes and directs with confidence.

A lot of comparisons have been drawn with The Babadook, another horror centred around grief but one that masters the slow-building dread effect with more force. Despite the perceived flaws there’s no denying that Aster has achieved a lot with this daring debut; if only in drawing mass audiences to an indie film, thus supporting the industry. The writing is pretty spectacular too, human emotion is captured quite perfectly, and Collette leads the film into outstanding territory performance-wise.

It won’t scare you like you might want it too, but it’s certainly an impressive debut from a director who is no doubt now in high demand.

King Jack, review

It’s truly a rare thing when you watch a relatively unknown film and find yourself wanting to tell as many people as possible about what you’ve just seen. Not because you had a blockbuster cinematic experience while viewing, but because it was tender and real, heart-warming and relatable, and you wanted to see more come the final moments.

This is what is really remarkable about independent filmmaking; it has a quality unto its own, something so pure and un-fussy, yet so spectacularly memorable. KING JACK is just that. You might not see a simpler movie this year, but that simplicity is not to be underestimated or belittled, for coming-of-age is seen so perfectly on film here, without the angst of many teen dramas of now.

KING JACK follows 15 year-old Jack over the course of a long hot summer weekend when his younger cousin Ben comes to stay, and he finds himself transforming with age. Jack is in it that phase of adolescence where girls are of interest and anger is prominent – he won’t allow his bullies to interrogate him much longer as he finds his bravery. Jack is played by Charlie Plummer and Ben by Cory Nichols, both are exceptional young actors.

Plummer is remarkable from start to finish, beguiling in his role as a confused teen, finding his feet in this crazy world and discovering who he wants to surround himself with. Nichols is a somewhat silent co-star, but he seems so wise beyond his years just through physicality and mannerisms and he aids Jack in his journey towards finding real friendship for the first time. The pair share such a touching bond as they protect each other against the bad guys of the small town Jack inhabits and Ben reluctantly visits. Surprisingly, it’s the younger boy who teaches the other how to be a better person and this tiny detail in the narrative makes for such a refreshing adage. KING JACK is really something special.

charlie plummer in king jack

charlie plummer in king jack

The entire ensemble comes together to make for a truly realistic depiction of suburban life, from Christian Madsen as the older brother, to Daniel Flaherty as the school bully – on paper it sounds clichéd but in reality it’s entirely complex in its exploration of just one character and those around him. Aside from the central narrative of Jack and Ben, there are an array of sub-plots that are briefly touched-upon, but never fully explored and while, in many cases, this would be a strike against a feature, somehow here it propels the narrative forward – motivating its audience to stay present, watching and wanting more.

Director and writer Felix Thompson focuses on locale to create a hazy summer setting which creates an atmosphere of longing – in Jack’s case, longing for a friend. While Thompson asks a lot of his young cast he doesn’t push to no avail; supported by a script that is nearly faultless, Plummer and Nichols’ age is understood by their helmer who works to showcase the highs and lows of growing up in a short 80 minutes. The whimsical ending is true to indie form, closing the feature in a way that is judged perfectly by Thompson.

This is wonderful filmmaking that should be seen by as many people as possible. Tender and thoughtful, KING JACK is as real a portrayal of everyday life as living it yourself.

It Follows, review

It Follows is an indie dream. Atmospheric, low-key and teeming with nostalgia (if you’re an old-school horror fan), David Robert Mitchell delivers a movie that is startlingly inventive first time-around but no doubt serves as repeat watching due to its nature of serving up something new each time. It Follows is far from the formulaic teen-slasher or paranormal sub-genre that has dominated cinema screens in recent years and it’s kinda’ hard to put it in any barrier. Mitchell is genre-busting here, for one minute you’re watching an adolescent romance play out, the next a nightmarish horror – this is very clever film making.

In It Follows we meet Jay (Maika Monroe), a young woman who – after going on a date and sleeping with the guy – is left with strange repercussions to deal with. The aftermath is a follower, one who changes in appearance every time she sees it and one which has malevolent intentions. Long story short, the follower is kind of like an STI, but much, much worse than herpes. So, anyway, Jay (with the help of her kooky pals) sets out to beat this thing in whichever way she can. But, how to do such a thing when you don’t really know what it is? That, pretty simply, is the premise to It Follows.

maika monroe as jay in it follows

maika monroe as jay in it follows

Maika Monroe is an absolute dream in her role as Jay. She’s likable, you want her to succeed, and shes totally relatable if you’re anywhere between 16-25. Monroe is on her way to super-stardom (or at least should be) and among several impressive performances – she is possibly the only good thing about the disappointing The Guest It Follows is one to get a hold of. She is supported by Keir Gilchrist as Paul, Olivia Luccardi as Yara and Lili Sepe as Kelly – all of whom share a great chemistry as they support Jay on her journey against the entity she is haunted by. Mitchell brings out the best from his cast with an original script which is quietly thoughtful and a direction that is reminiscent of horror films of the past. At 100 minutes its a relatively slow-build but this lends to a relationship between Jay, Yara, Paul, Kelly and their audience. The entire feature is atmospheric and where a thunderstorm might seem cliched in any other ‘teen’ horror in It Follows it only pushes the greatness of the piece forward. The soundtrack is an electronic treat with melodies that pop up frequently meaning you’re totally unaware of when you should be concerned that something terrible might just happen.

It Follows is great in the way that it doesn’t show you a whole lot; there is no stream of barbaric violence or continuous scares but there are several carefully timed moments that do keep you on your toes. The antagonist of the film, the entity, is frightening in the way that you can see him or her but you don’t know where it’s from or what it wants, and there’s a lot of well-crafted enigma which propels the film into fantastic territory.

Unique and tense with a whiff of the 1980’s, It Follows is a gem to the horror genre.