Monday, 25 June 2018



But is it though? We're in one of those ages where any horror movie that's actually recognised as a quality piece is somehow not a horror movie - a post-horror, a psychological thriller, an elevated genre film. Thus Get Out wasn't a horror film, It Follows wasn't a horror film, It Comes At Night wasn't a horror film, even though they quite obviously were. Because they were good movies and people don't appreciate or admire horror: they might enjoy them in a Friday night popcorn way but They're Not Any Good. Horror seems to be the only genre that is widely identified by its worst attributes - The Silence Of The Lambs is excused as a thriller, Misery is excused as a thriller and Pan's Labyrinth is excused as a dark magical fantasy because horror is Cheerleader Hacksaw Massacre 3 - whereas no-one would think of identifying comedies primarily as Deuce Bigelow films or fantasy adventures as Hawk The Slayer or Prisoners Of The Lost Universe. Horror is sleazy and disreputable downmarket junk which young directors might have dabbled in on the way up the ladder to becoming Proper Film-Makers, but it's no place for a respectable artist.

Hereditary is clearly a horror film, although it feels like two movies shuffled together, only one of which is overt, outright horror. The other is a drama about a family's stifling grief, with parents Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne coming to terms not only with the death of her mother but the loss of their young daughter in a senseless road accident (the film's only moment of bad taste, almost-but-not-quite funny gore) at the weed-afflicted hands of their older son. Against this are the hints of something supernatural going on: appearances of the departed, symbols and strange words on the walls and elsewhere, suggestions that may be real or merely imagined in their emotional pain.

The result is a film of brilliantly uncomfortable and creepy moments that work superbly as isolated scenes but don't entirely hang together as a narrative. The first two thirds or so is unsettling, with the twisted family history expressed in Colette's miniature tableaux recreations of the family home (aided by some exteriors that have that tilt-shift effect of making everything look like tabletop models) and a constant nagging sense of wrongness, evoking dread as effectively as that moment behind the diner dumpsters in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. For the last act, however, the film has to decide whether to stick with the weird and uncomfortable, or resolve the story with a proper conclusion, and they opt for the latter, pushing the film into much more generic territory and making into much more of a regular horror movie. It's still a good one, and while I'm still old-fashioned enough to like traditional start-middle-and-ending structures, this was one of those occasions where I might have preferred a more open conclusion.




The run of disaster movies in the 1970s, most famously brought to the screen by Irwin Allen, mixed all star casts with grand scale catastrophe and spectacle. One thinks obviously of Allen's own productions The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure, or Airport (and its increasingly weak sequels) and Earthquake; perhaps less fondly of The Swarm or Allen's last hurrah, the genuinely bewildering When Time Ran Out. Inevitably, as with any major box-office trend, there were the lower-budgeted, lower-powered versions and Roger Corman got in on the action with one of the few natural disasters left.

In fact Avalanche isn't too bad: it looks and feels like a TV movie with only the occasional mild oath and moments of easily edited nudity to stop it playing on a Saturday afternoon. Rock Hudson has put most of his money on the line for a luxury Colorado ski resort; Hudson's ex Mia Farrow is making eyes at Robert Forster, who has environmental concerns about the project (not limited to the likelihood of an avalanche), and an assortment of other supporting characters not played by name actors - skiers, figure skaters - have their own sexual shenanigans going on. Meanwhile the weather is closing in and the avalanche is only a matter of time....

Too much of that time is spent on relationships and personal problems we don't care about, and it feels like an (ice) age before the mountain finally goes and the avalanche stock footage of varying age and quality is intercut with people falling over while the effects guys throw lumps of Styrofoam and polystyrene at them from the lighting gantry. When disaster eventually does strike it's actually quite watchable fun, and something of a relief from the soap opera dramatics, with a child stranded on the ski lift, Hudson's mother trapped in the collapsing hotel, and assorted brightly clad idiots buried upside down by superimposed snow. Little of it makes sense (why does Hudson have a colossal gun aimed at the gathering snow on the mountaintop if not to start an avalanche?) but there's moderate amusement to be had.