It is very easy to see why Hereditary had an incredible amount of buzz after this year’s Sundance. New director Ari Aster comes onto the scene and has one of the most confident horror visions and well-crafted screenplays EVER. Not just in the past 10 years, but of all time. Everything you’ve been hearing about Hereditary being a modern-day “Exorcist” is true. Not only is it a horror film, but in some ways it’s a dramatic look at the evils we inherit from our family. Believe the hype.
When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.
The first aspect of Hereditary that needs to be talked about is lead actress Toni Collette. Her performance as Annie is one of the best in years and is 100% Oscar-worthy. Her character transformation is absolutely unbelievable and horrific to witness and it is beyond easy to be transfixed on her character throughout the two-hour runtime. Gabriel Byrne turns in a subtle, yet effective performance as well. As a whole, the entire cast is strong and directed well by Ari Aster. Alex Wolff surprised me as the son Peter. The trailers did a good job of not showing how big of a role he actually has. In simple terms, Hereditary is a study of a family going to Hell. One can imagine how spine-chilling a story like this could be, but let me say this right now: YOU’RE NOT READY. This movie takes a turn that and descends into territory that is rarely seen on a big screen.
As seen in the trailer, Annie’s mother passes away and she is having trouble processing the loss. Her mom was a very secretive woman who lead a mysterious and troubling life. Her husband Steve is very passive about the entire situation and that leads to Annie dealing with her thoughts on her own. There is something putrid at the core of this family, and throughout the film the audience gets to see what exactly it is. Some of what makes up the core of the disease in this family is very hard to watch, but even harder to look away from.
Hereditary is definitely a horror movie, no doubt about it. However deep down there is some extremely dark humor there, especially in the film’s climax. This does not mean that it is laugh out loud funny, but just unexpected subtle dark humor. Other than that, it can almost be classified as a drama as well. Hereditary takes its sweet time. This is not a horror movie that will make you jump every 5 minutes with cheesy, cheap scares. It is a slow burn character study that terrorizes the audience with realism and emotional dread. It recalls some vibes from 2016’s The Witch (also a product of A24). It is not the same movie story wise, but it takes its time like The Witch and actually has character development and well-written dialogue.
Technically speaking, the cinematography and the score are both appropriate to the story and incredibly pleasing. There is no shaky-cam in this one, almost all on a dolly and/or steadicam. The camera work makes the audience feel like they’re manoeuvring through the house with our cast. You combine that with the sound design and the score, and it makes for a very unsettling experience. There are also some really cool visual/special effects that weren’t expected, but they added a lot to the story.
Hereditary is one of those rare screenplays that grips the audience and holds them until the credits roll. The movie starts out a bit slow, but it’s not boring. There is an event that occurs in the 2nd act that is shocking and from there, you’re in. It feels like you’re watching something that you’re not supposed to be seeing.
This one will require multiple viewings mainly because of the subject matter. It very well might be the best movie of 2018 though, and it realistically could get attention from The Academy if A24 makes the push. Toni Collette deserves a nomination and Ari Aster deserves one as well for the screenplay. It’s time for The Academy to start recognising more great horror movies. Some progress was made with last year’s Get Out (which I was not a fan of, but most people were), so maybe Hereditary with get the recognition it deserves. Go see it the night it comes out, and prepare to take a bath in Holy Water afterwards. I’ll say it again: BELIEVE. THE. HYPE.