Ari Aster’s Hereditary opens simply: the white letters of Ellen Graham’s obituary blazing on a inky background. The matriarch is survived by her daughter Annie, an artist who creates miniature dioramas of her everyday life. We see one of her miniatures now: a cut-out model of her home in the forest. As we zoom in, we focus on a bedroom belonging to her teenage son Peter. Slowly, the miniature room fills the screen until the facsimile becomes reality and Peter’s father walks in to wake him for his grandmother’s funeral. From this point forward the line between reality and fantasy, between the actual and the imagined, will remain blurred.
Writer-director David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a contemplative tone poem on the vast expanses of time, captured in a single relationship between two people. As the two main characters reach a turning point about where they are going to live, a car accident removes one of them from the equation – except that it doesn’t. After the body is identified and the sheet pulled back, the body erects itself, walks out of the morgue, and starts observing.
And the jinn we created before from scorching fire.
– Quran 15:27 “The Rocky Tract”
Symbolism and metaphor are powerful weapons against oppression, and can also illuminate complex and unbearable situations like war and the subjugation of women. Writer-director Babak Anvari’s debut feature Under the Shadow is a intelligent film that takes full advantage of the setting, situation, and culture of Iran in the 1980’s to spin a terrifying supernatural horror film. Among the background of the Iran-Iraq war, the film depicts a woman and her young daughter as Tehran is bombed and a nefarious Jinn takes residence in their apartment building. Though a supernatural horror film on the surface, Under the Shadow also boasts a rich subtext that explores ideas of misogyny, family struggles, and the gloom of wartime.
The Conjuring was one of the most impressive horror films to emerge from Hollywood in the last decade, so James Wan’s follow-up to the 2013 hit has been widely anticipated. In a turn that restores a modicum of faith in mankind, the sequel is an overwhelming success. Ed and Lorraine Warren return with another paranormal investigation, this one based on their most-documented case: The Enfield poltergeist. As before, the pair and their relationship form the kernel of a masterful supernatural high-horror film. The Conjuring 2 will delight and terrify genre fans and whichever casual movie-goers have the courage to buy a ticket and peer through their fingers.