Hereditary is a disturbing portrayal of a family dealing with death and grief while horrific, supernatural elements slowly take over their lives. The film is the directorial debut of Ari Aster, and he does an excellent job of weaving, what is essentially, two movies together: a psychological drama and a supernatural horror. The film stars Toni Collette as Annie Graham, Gabriel Byrne as her husband, and Alex Wolff as her son. It starts with everyone at the funeral for Annie’s mother and the audience immediately senses that things were not all right between the two women and that perhaps Annie’s hostility is now being shared with her children.
Collette gives an award worthy performance as her manic character, and her performance is the reason why, when the film does shift toward horror, the audience follows along. The entire time, Collette and the audience are confused as to what is and is not reality.
To deal with her grief, Annie visits a medium to contact the dead and this unlocks a world of terror onto herself and her family, but this shift toward horror doesn’t happen until well into the second half of the film. The first half is a slow-paced, family drama filled with extremely intense relationships. One of the best scenes in the film takes place with the family at the dinner table. The conversation will make the audience’s skin crawl worse than any of the horror elements that happen later on. That’s not to say that the horror wasn’t suspenseful and scary, because it eventually was. Once ghosts start moving things and the dead bodies start showing up, that’s when the excitement really begins.
Hereditary has a lot that audiences will enjoy, but there are elements of arthouse cinema that may not work as well for some. This is not a film for people that want to see another Saw, Insidious, or The Purge. This film is closer in tone and level of terror to Persona, The Shinning, and most notably, Rosemary’s Baby. If you are a fan of Buñuel, Bergman, and Kubrick, you’ll enjoy everything about this movie. Aster does an amazing job weaving together the intense emotional drama that builds within the family, the sudden tonal and genre shifts, the fever-like dream sequences, and the over-the-top supernatural elements of the ending.
Whose Review gives Hereditary the overall score of, “What just happened?” The marketing for Hereditary does not do it justice as the true value of the film is the mix of intense family drama that gets escalated with the horror of the ending. That may work for cinephiles, but others may feel cheated. Either way, audiences will leave the theater asking, “What just happened?”
Stay up to date with everything Whose Review on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Photo courtesy of Whose Review.