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The terrifying 'Hereditary' demands and rewards close attention

The terrifying 'Hereditary' demands and rewards close attention
Toni Collette in the movie "Hereditary." (Reid Chavis / A24)

It should come as no surprise that “Hereditary,” Ari Aster’s supremely tense and devastating movie about a family’s slow-motion breakdown, received a D+ CinemaScore from audiences. Mainstream horror movies have so coarsened the language and rhythm of the genre that when a picture comes along that takes its time getting under your skin, that doesn’t depend on jump scares and other cheap shocks every five minutes, it’s easy enough to mistake a revelation for a slog.

No matter: Aster’s debut film is mesmerizing, with one of the year’s great performances at its center. Toni Collette stars as an artist, wife and mother who is paralyzed by unthinkable grief, then suddenly mobilized into action, never realizing that she and her family — the sterling cast includes Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro — are being acted upon by darker forces than she can imagine. I won’t say more, except that “Hereditary” is on DVD now, and it gets an A from me.

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