Grief is dealt with in different ways. Whether via mourning, anger, resentment, miniature art. Especially when dealing with issues in the family, and that is what Hereditary is all about, at its core; Family, and Grief, and how we choose to deal with it. It is what the film chooses to do with these themes that make this a powerfully resonant, intense, horrifying, and traumatizing film. The film centers on the Graham Family, after the death of the Matriarch, estranged mother to Annie Graham, who is married to Steve, with children Peter and Charlie.
The death of Annie’s mother sets off a chain of events in the film that are not typically expected from horror films, although the initial setup of the film is that of a tried true horror film trope. That’s beside the point though, because once the setup is there and done with and you begin to get a feel for the characters themselves, the unsettling aspects of the film begin to take their toll, in part thanks to the fantastic cast Director Ari Aster assembled for the film.
Alex Wolff, who plays the quiet and gloomy Peter, bounces off greatly with younger and more sinister sister Charlie (played by the talented Milly Shapiro) and Charlie’s role in the film and overall vibe the character gives off has you feeling that something terrible happening is inevitable. While each character in the family copes in different ways, such as mother Annie working on miniature art and Charlie creates disturbing figures out of interesting materials, for example. All of this happens as Annie slowly reveals information regarding her families troubled lineage through therapy and consolation from mysterious places, including a great side character played by Ann Dowd. The awkwardness and tension in the family is palpable thanks to fantastic performances from all of the cast, as they absolutely make the film, along with other aspects of production, but we will get to that later. Toni Collette as mother Annie Graham is an amazing performance and a tour de force, with her interactions with her family being some of the best acting, making a lot of the family interactions very convincing. After Peter takes Charlie to a party with him that eventually leads to even more complications in the family, the film truly takes off into disturbing territory.
The lineage of the family is important to the story, with circumstances and situations arising that has themselves asking how much is paranormal and how much is mental disability or sickness. It’s this premise of the film that makes everything that occurs in the film all the more disturbing. While there are indeed supernatural elements to the film, Director Ari Aster does not rely completely on those things, as is evident by the delivery of those scares and development of the story, as Hereditary is a very bold and brave film, with multiple layers to it. There is a lot to unpack in this film, and that is a good, no, a great thing. It is not every day you get a horror film of this caliber that delivers on scares and true tension but also has an intricate story that can be interpreted multiple ways. While the execution is complicated, the way in which Aster tells this story is extremely successful thanks to camera work and sound design as well.
Ari Aster uses interesting camera work to make everything even more uncomfortable, with intrusive cameras lingering on shots and transitions from things like dioramas quickly into real life. As the family slowly lingers into disarray, so does the camera work. When the camera conveys and evolves like a character in the same vain as the story, you know the film works excellent on a technical level as well. The gore in the film is scarce compared to more recent horror films but when it’s there, it’s there. The astounding camera work is paired well with the sound design of Hereditary, as both aspects combined make for a deadly and scary combination in this film. The music, composed by Colin Stenson, uses music excellently in the film to provide feelings of distress and intensity. Overall, with the Score, cinematography, and performances from the actors, you have the film Hereditary relentlessly at all senses.
The cold-blooded, no holds barred instinct of the film is one that carries throughout its 2-hour runtime. While managing to tell an interesting story with a lot of layers to it as well as address some interesting familial themes, the film at times moves at sometimes too slow of a pace. While it trudges along, you’re wondering what is real and what is not, and by the end, you’re not sure if it really matters as you try to process what you had just watched. Despite relying on cliché setups akin to horror films, Hereditary still manages to be a successful and different horror film than what we usually receive, with some genuine and shocking scares that balance well with its pacing.
There is a lot of emotional weight to the film, with a lot to certainly to unpack and think about the weeks after you watch Hereditary. A dark and unrelenting take on family, and how you are stuck with what you get. It is sinister in every possible way and sometimes felt like it was doing that intentionally just to make you feel uncomfortable. Because of that, it is a truly amazing Horror film, despite myself not really being a fan of the genre, I have to give credit where credit is due. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Rating – 9/10
Hereditary hits theaters June 8, 2018.
When Ellen passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.