First Hit: A rather complex or complicated horror film that worked reasonably well.
This is a dark film and attempts, in its own way, to pose question about evil being hereditary. The story revolves around the horrible death of Charlie (Milly Shapiro). She is killed in an accident (or is it) when her brother Peter (Alex Wolff) is driving her to the hospital.
Although this scene is early in the film, the strangeness of the family and their dynamics are shown because Annie (Toni Collette), the mother, makes models of the house and other things in her work studio. Charlie sleeps outside in a tree house that's very cold. The main house itself is way out in the country and is given the feeling of being a bit dark. Peter is shown to be somewhat ambivalent about life, school, and spends a lot of time high on pot.
We learn later that this Annie’s accurate models are her art and livelihood. Her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne) is rather stoic about the family’s oddness and acts as the solid foundation of the family.
After Charlie’s death Peter and Annie have fights blaming each other for Charlie’s death while Steve tries to referee these fights.
Annie meets Joan (Ann Dowd) who speaks with her about losing a child and quickly becomes Annie’s confidant. But things become more bizarre and sinister when Joan teaches Annie about how to conjure up the spirit of her deceased Charlie.
From here the film takes some bizarre turns and outside of the strong performances, the story is not believable or, in the end, horrifying.
Collette is amazingly and bizarrely strong in this role. She’s required to portray a wide range of feelings and emotions and she does this very well. Wolff is the other prime role and his lack of outward rage was either script driven, or he didn’t have the ability to share this. His actions after the accident didn’t seem to fit the event and that was disconcerting to me. Byrne was OK as the stoic father who rarely ventured out of this role’s comfort zone. Shapiro was good in her short-lived part. Dowd was excellent as the friendly helpful person who also had a dark side. Ari Aster wrote and directed this film. I trust he got what he wanted but for me, the horror in the film was the shocking accident that killed Charlie, the rest was just oddly bizarre.
Overall: This film was unique in its storytelling that had strong performances.