The chattering crowd is saying it’s this generation’s “The Shining.” Others are ranking it with “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist.” Yes, I would suspect that in the great book of horror films, Ari Aster’s new film “Hereditary” will indeed get a page, but with an asterisk or two attached. I’ll get to that.

It’s safe to say that if “The Maltese Falcon” is the “stuff dreams are made of,” “Hereditary” is a truck load of the stuff nightmares are made of.

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 93 percent and that’s gold. That should delight the producers, two of whom are the stars. It may also bring two Oscars to brighten its future.

It begins with the death of the family matriarch, who may have been dealing with the forces of darkness.

Meet the Grahams: Wife Annie (Toni Collette), husband (Gabriel Byrne), grandson Peter (Alex Wolff), and very scary daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro, making her incredible stand out debut), who begin, to borrow Eugene O’Neill’s words, a long day’s journey into night.

Threaded throughout the early minutes, reams of terrifying secrets about Grandma pop up in journals and papers hidden in the attic, while floors creak and the wind outside flutters the leaves. Good start.

What happens next will reveal what may be an inherited propensity for unnatural acts.

The old TV guide might put it this way:

“The Brady Bunch” drops acid and literally, all Hell breaks loose.

Among the delights: If Linda Blair’s head twisting and spider walk in “The Exorcist” is still keeping you awake, you might want to go see the Pope Francis documentary.

But if you are a true horror junkie with a bottomless thirst for body shaking, eye-popping stares and a passion for multiple immolations, beheadings, limbless apparitions, grave desecrations, and attics full of unspeakable things, “Hereditary” might be your “Wizard of Oz.”

Collette plays Mama Annie, a successful artist who designs miniature houses full of tiny people, who look a lot like friends and family. Eventually even a decapitated head appears.

This is Collette’s turn to walk the red carpet. Her performance, full of screams and grimaces, tears and sleep walking, will knock you out of your seat The final frame in the film? Hold your breath.

There is a splendid performance by Wolff, who plays her semi-normal teen age son, who will have a crown in his future. Wait for it.

There is the troubled pre-teen daughter, Charlie. She already has a few problems, and things look to get worse for her right away.

Irish actor Byrne is here as a father who doesn’t seem to know best. He always comes home for dinner. Eventually, he will wish he had gone to Five Guys.

To add to the mishegas, the Grahams live in a house that looks to have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s evil brother. It’s all dark brown wood with low-key lighting, and full of long, dark halls.

All of this came together from the hand of Aster (“The Strange Thing About the Johnsons”), who wrote and directed the film. Aster may not be from this planet.

The other magicians responsible for the mayhem: The breathtaking cinematography of Pawel Pogorzelski, the incredible art direction of Brian Lives, the costumes of Olga Mill, the soon-to-be-nominated 15 artists of the visual effects department, and certainly the heroic work of the stuntmen and women.

It’s clear that “Hereditary” will be the millennium’s Halloween pot party favorite for whoops and whistles jeers, as there are a couple of over-the-top scenes that jump the shark.

It’s my opinion that Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” Kubrick’s “Shining” and William Friedkin’s “Exorcist” were directed with more skill and finesse than “Hereditary,” and with less blood and gore and more real jump-out-of-your seats moments. But it’s what you want to see this week.

Be careful what you wish for.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.