Director: Ari Astor
Writer: Ari Astor
Starring: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne
This was a film that I kept seeing the trailer for when I was in the theater seeing other films. I had been anticipating for it for some time and was worrying that it might not hold up. The official synopsis is when the matriarch of the Graham family passes away; her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.
I have to lead off stating that I felt the film lived up to the hype that it had preceding it. I personally don’t consider this a slow-burn, even though some might. I felt that the beginning of the film does establish things that come back in the end, but the feeling of foreboding dread coupled with creepy things happening throughout.
The mystery of this film is so deep. We know that Annie (Toni Collette) had an on and off again relationship with her mother. She establishes there is a long line of mental health issues with the family. I thought this was a good touch for the film, especially with Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne). He is the rock of the family trying to keep everything together.
Also in the family are their son, Peter (Alex Wolff), and their daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Charlie seems to have some sort of mental handicap, but it is never established what it was. It was interesting that when she was born, the grandmother was let back in Annie’s life and insisted on feeding Charlie. It is established as well that she is the favorite. It is Charlie who reveals though that the grandmother wanted her to be a boy.
This story also combines elements of grief, which can make us go a little bit crazy in dealing with. Someone like Annie with a family history of mental illness is more susceptible than others to this. I like that the film has a character like Steve trying to deal with everything rationally where Annie starts to think that it could be supernatural. We as the audience get to see everything going on, but I do like the rationality the film maintains.
To couple with this though is the editing of the film. This film not only looks beautiful, but I love the interesting ways that the film transitions. Annie works on miniatures of things and many of them are of scenes she experienced or of the house they live in. What I like about this is we will get camera zooms into the minis and then the scene will play out which I found to be interesting. The film builds tension throughout and you can just feel it build as things are revealed. I thought the ending was good and definitely well worth what we see play out.
Going along with the editing and the story was the acting, which I thought was amazing. Collette does a great job in this film. You see her have to deal with grief, but then it morphs into anger. She has a dinner scene that made me go numb for how powerful it was. You also learn more about her character and it is scary. I thought Byrne was good as the counterpoint to her, which the film needed. Wolff does an amazing job in the performance he plays. The fear he deals with was ramped up and I believed it. I also thought that Shapiro was good in the role she played. Ann Dowd also appears in this film as a woman dealing with grief who reaches out to Collette’s character. I thought she did good as well.
As for the effects of the film, there aren’t a lot to begin with. Most of them are done practically it would seem with some interesting camera angles. The ones that were done with computers looked to be seamless and I couldn’t tell the difference. I was definitely impressed with what I saw and had no issues there.
The soundtrack of the film I also thought was good. It fit the scenes for what they needed. It helped to enhance the scenes and definitely gave me a creepy vibe. I won’t say that it is the best soundtrack out there, but it was great for what they needed to do in heightening the tension.
Now with that said, this film is great. I was blown away by the complexity of the story and how everything plays out. The atmosphere is one that is tense and just gets worse and worse as the film progresses. With every new clue, it becomes that much weirder. I thought the editing definitely helps here. The film is shot beautifully and does some great transitions. Going along with this is the acting, which I thought was great as well. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but the ones used; both practical and computer are seamless. The score of the film is great in building up the scenes for what they are doing. I think this film is great, but maybe not for everyone. This film made me anxious and freaked out for sure.
My Rating: 10 out of 10