Movie review: "Hereditary"

New film proves that really scary horror movies can still be made


'You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't." -- "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

In the new horror feature, "Hereditary," family plays an important role not only because it forms the backdrop for a paranormal mystery, but because it shapes the characters created by writer-director Ari Aster.

Be warned, this movie builds slowly, but the horror it works up to is extremely intense. It is, dare I say, one of the scariest movies I've seen in a long time. Truly.

It would be, since it opens on a funeral.

A woman named Annie Graham (Toni Collette) has lost her mother Ellen, the family matriarch. So deep are the psychological issues the mother implanted in Annie that over the years, she channeled them into her work. Annie is a respected fine artist who is working toward completing her next big show.

Annie's work consists of dollhouses, or more accurately, meticulously designed domestic environments that feature miniature tableaus that mirror the artist's exploration of her personal history. In the opening shot, we are drawn into a room in one of her dollhouses where, eerily, the miniature characters suddenly come alive, and the first scene in the movie begins. Is the director asking us to begin doubting what we see right from the beginning?

In that scene, Annie, her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and her daughter Charlie (newcomer Milly Shapiro) and older brother Peter (Alex Wolfe) are late for the funeral. Later, Annie's eulogy is fraught with inner pain as she describes her mother's secretive nature.

Annie then surreptitiously attends a grief support group and finally has a chance to spill the beans on her family's troubled history involving mental illness and abuse. Now, at this point, you may believe this is Annie's story, but in many ways it is also Charlie's.

Charlie is 13 and may be suffering from some kind of undiagnosed behavioral disorder. Every once it a while, she utters a little clicking sound with her tongue. Remember that. But, she does strange things only she -- and we -- know about.

There's a lot about this story that should be discovered upon viewing. When I saw it, I only knew that some of the social media buzz centered on it being really scary and was probably a sleeper hit. As I watched its first third, I wondered if the excitement was overhyped, but the deeper I got into it, the dread became nearly unbearable, and the shock moments, even to a jaded critic, nailed me right to the wall.

I was impressed with the skill director Aster employed in creating a strange environment within another, mirroring in some ways the elements in the opening of that first scene. It's very effective and may even stay with you as you leave the theater and cause you to keep a light on as you try to sleep.

"Hereditary" is rated R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity.

It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit

Also showing in Taos

The following were compiled from press materials

Hotel Artemis

MPAA rating: R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use

Mitchell Storyteller 7

This film was written and directed by Drew Pearce. As rioting rocks Los Angeles in the year 2028, disgruntled thieves make their way to Hotel Artemis: a 13-story, members-only hospital for criminals. It’s operated by the Nurse (Jody Foster), a no-nonsense, high-tech healer who already has her hands full with a French assassin, an arms dealer and an injured cop. As the violence of the night continues, the Nurse must decide whether to break her own rules and confront what she’s worked so hard to avoid. Costars include Jeff Goldblum, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista and Kenneth Choi.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit

Ocean’s 8

MPAA rating: PG-13 for language, drug use and some suggestive content

Mitchell Storyteller 7

Danny Ocean’s estranged sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) attempts to pull off the heist of the century at New York City’s star-studded annual Met Gala. Her first stop is to assemble the perfect all-female crew: Lou Miller (Cate Blanchett), Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Amita (Mindy Kaling) and Constance (Akwafina).

Five years, eight months, 12 days and counting — that’s how long Debbie Ocean has been devising the biggest heist of her life. She knows what it’s going to take: a team of the best people in the field, starting with her partner-in-crime Lou Miller. Together, they recruit a crew of specialists, including jeweler Amita, street con Constance, suburban mom Tammy, hacker Nine Ball and fashion designer Rose. Their target: a necklace that’s worth more than $150 million.

This film was directed by Gary Ross and written by Ross with Olivia Milch.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit

The Rider

MPAA rating: R for language and drug use

Movies at the TCA

Brady Blackburn, a rodeo bronc rider with some renown, learned everything he knows about horses and riding from his parents, Wayne and the now deceased Mari Blackburn. Brady is recovering from a fall off a bronc in a rodeo, the most serious of the injuries being a skull fracture which required a metal plate in his head.

Including checking himself out of the hospital earlier than advised, Brady is determined to get back up onto the literal and proverbial horse as quickly as possible as being a cowboy is all he knows. But deep in his heart he knows that returning to the rodeo in particular is something that is probably not in the cards without increased risks.

Eventually this feeling is  confirmed by his doctor, who tells him that he cannot sustain another serious head injury without some major consequence. He does not even want his friends and family to treat him with kid gloves. He wants to do all of the physical activities that are part and parcel of being a man and a cowboy.

Brady has to come to some realization and come to terms with his situation. It is made even more difficult as his best friend, former rodeo rider Lane Scott, will forever be institutionalized needing around the clock medical care from a similar accident.

Brady could end up like Scott, could kill himself physically in the attempt to bronc again, or he could kill himself emotionally if he can’t do what he loves.

According to, “The character Brady Blackburn is based on actor Brady Jandreau, who suffered the kind of head injury shown in the film after a fall from a horse.”

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (June 17), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (18-20).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit