HEREDITARY: Home is nowhere near where the heart is in this harrowingly suspenseful film where the main characters are most likely to be killed by someone they live with. All the events are set in motion by the death of a matriarch whose estranged adult daughter (Toni Collette) finds it difficult to praise her during an awkwardly delivered eulogy. But the grown-up child here isn’t the only one with conflicts and issues. Not by a longshot. Her spouse (Gabriel Byrne) has a serene detachment about him that occasionally feels as though he’s wandered into the realm of apathy. There’s a teenage son (Alex Wolff) who uses marijuana to quash overwhelming guilt plus a “tween” daughter (Milly Shapiro) with a chronically glazed expression who sketches creepy pictures and, at one point of foreshadowing, cuts the head off a dead bird. The Waltons they “ain’t”. Gradually, they begin to uncover familial secrets that foretell grim fates for all of them. Newcomer director/writer Ari Aster does a superior job of building the sort of near unbearable tension that consistently pervades the narrative throughout the proceedings. You know that a catastrophic train wreck is coming but you can’t take your eyes off the tracks. That sense of oncoming disaster is magnified by an unnerving musical score by Colin Stetson along with the sound mixing of Steven C. Laneri where the “clicking” of a tongue can positively send chills down your spine. Driving the film, though, is the amazing performance of Collette (See CLOSING CREDITS.) who displays an incredible range of emotions from that of a distraught, heartbroken mother dealing with unbearable loss to one who’s perfectly willing to kill her loved ones. Equally jarring is young Wolff (JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE) whose haunted, guilt-ridden high schooler would appear to be a shoo-in for the dubious title of “Most Likely To Commit Suicide”. For me, the final portion of the movie (Which I won’t reveal.) felt like it belonged in a far more mediocre work with a storyline angle that emerges late and has the potential to generate a liberal amount of WTF? reactions. But the craftsmanlike technique in the film make it positively mesmerizing to audiences that might find themselves clutching their seats while they squirm in them for all the right reasons. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other good movies starring Toni Collette – THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT (1992), MURIEL’S WEDDING (1994), EMMA (1996), THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)*, SHAFT (2000), ABOUT A BOY (2002), CHANGING LANES (2002), THE HOURS (2002), CONNIE AND CARLA (2004), IN HER SHOES (2005), THE DEAD GIRL (2006), LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006), TOWELHEAD (2008), FRIGHT NIGHT (2011), HITCHCOCK (2012), ENOUGH SAID (2013), THE WAY WAY BACK (2013)

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress