Tuesday 18 September 2018

Film of the week: Hereditary

Cert: 16; Now showing

Toni Collette and a bad case of goosebumps in 'Hereditary'
Toni Collette and a bad case of goosebumps in 'Hereditary'
Daid Bowie and Romy Haag at Studio 54

A purple patch has been evident of late in horror, a genre that so often seems uniquely - and ironically - low on imagination. This might be a symptom of the one-dimensional (and rather redundant) nature of its remit - making viewers leap.

What we've seen in the last few years, however, are chills oozing forth at lower frequencies (It Follows, The Witch) and quaking, subconscious-level bumps in the night that are earned via good screenwriting (The Babadook, Get Out), rather than cheap surprises and shrill sound design.

Hereditary is the latest of this lineage, and perhaps the most merciless in terms of the sustained dread it inflicts on its viewer. Debutant writer-director Ari Aster mixes the occult in with the sheer weirdness of that most unsettling arena - the family. If you thought yours was odd, think again.

Toni Collette plays Annie, mother to teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff) and younger daughter Charlie (an unforgettable Milly Shapiro). She and husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) are readjusting after the death of Annie's live-in mother Ellen. With Ellen still warm in the grave, the house begins to experience strange occurrences which may have something to do with unsavoury family secrets.

Not a revolutionary pitch for a possession horror, but the domestic nightmare unfolds and infects wholesale. Aster's creeping panning shots, sharp editing, and wide, terror-revealing angles recall The Shining. Things get a little giddy in the final act but by then you're just begging for the ghastly boil to be lanced. An indelible classic.

★★★★ Hilary A White

Five star review: Studio 54

Club Cert; Now showing

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Daid Bowie and Romy Haag at Studio 54

Like so many icons, Studio 54 burned bright but not for long, one of the factors that cemented it forever as the epitome of glamorous disco chic. It lasted 33 months from April 1977 and entered modern mythology. Despite that, co-founder Ian Schrager had never spoken much publicly of the club until agreeing to make this documentary with director Matt Tyrnauer. The result is a fittingly fab story.

Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell met in college and in 1977 the ambitious boys from the Bronx hit on the idea of a discotheque. Disco music had united previously marginalised elements of society, namely blacks and gays, the beautiful people followed and so did the hoi polloi. It was a moment of confluence and Tyrnauer puts the story together well. Schrager is a likeable figure, still amazed by what they achieved and by what they tried to get away with (Rubell died in 1989).

Photos and footage help to capture a time and the rise and fall of the most famous disco of all time.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Ocean's 8

Cert: 12A; Opens June 18

For something so full of stars and whose plot is all about jewels, Ocean's 8 does lack a little sparkle.

That said, it is very watchable, slick and good fun, and the cast is great even though they are not given an awful lot to do.

It's just nowhere near as memorable as it might have been.

Danny Ocean's sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) gets out of jail after a five-year sentence she spent hatching plans for a heist.

She hooks up with her old con comrade Lou (Cate Blanchett) and they put together a team of top-notch female cons to steal the world's most expensive necklace.

They won't be taking it from any musty old vault either, but during the fashion moment of the year: the Met Gala.

Writer/director Gary Ross has crafted something just a bit too workmanlike.

The plot is reminiscent of Ocean's 11 but lacks both a decent baddie and enough hitches for drama. There is humour, but it too is lacklustre. Overall, while there is plenty to enjoy, including a lot of cosmetic surgery, it could have been much more.

★★★ Aine O'Connor

McQueen

Cert: 15A; Now showing

To the untrained or uninterested eye, fashion can seem to be the ultimate in superficiality. What Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui have achieved with their film, McQueen, is to not only tell the story of the iconic designer, explain his place in fashion and showcase his work, but they have managed to show the emotion behind fashion. It is a well-made, complete feeling documentary, and it is very moving.

Lee McQueen was a boy from Stratford who left school early but was not allowed to doss. In archival interviews his mother Joyce explains that her children were all encouraged to pay their way and Lee, with a vague interest in design, started knocking on doors in Savile Row where he became a stellar apprentice. Wanting to branch out he wangled his way, and the money, to go to St Martin's College where his passion and talent got him noticed. Fashion royalty Isabella Blow championed him, encouraging him to use his second name, Alexander, and buying his entire graduate collection.

Bonhote and Ettedgui use a combination of archival interviews, new interviews as well as lots of photos and footage to tell McQueen's personal and professional story, without glossing over the bad bits. They animate the brand skull motif differently for each chapter in the designer's life and all set to a dramatic Michael Nyman score it feels very... McQueen.  ★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Super Troopers 2

Cert: 16; Now showing

At the beginning of Super Troopers 2 there's a reference to American Pie in a cameo by Stiffler (Seann William Scott).

While not of much relevance to the plot of this film, it does plant the flag for the type of humour. It also sets a standard the film doesn't meet - for American Pie, made in 1999, was of its time and a kind of gross-out, locker-room humour peak that did have genuine laughs. This throwback to that style has some OK ideas, it just doesn't manage to be that funny. Which is a drawback for a comedy.

Sixteen years on from the original Super Troopers, the same four main characters have been working in construction since they were fired from being state troopers in Vermont. When an old map reveals that part of Canada really belongs to the US, the lads are reinstated as police officers and sent to oversee the transition. The plot isn't important, but it allows for Canada/America jokes about accents, the metric system and contraband. With a sprinkling of penis jokes.

The Broken Lizard comedy troupe (Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske, Kevin Heffernan) are involved in writing, directing and acting, Brian Cox plays their police chief, and there are cameos from Rob Lowe and Lynda Carter.

Everyone seems to have a great time - and though it isn't unwatchable, it simply doesn't take off as a comedy. Hopefully the fans who crowd-funded it will feel differently.

★★ Aine O'Connor

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