Hereditary Movie Review
Hereditary blew them away. It features a brilliant cast that manages to dig their nails deeply into the roles that director/writer Ari Aster creates for them. He proves to be an absolutely brilliant creative mind with a keen eye for detail and masterful understanding of dread.
At its core, Hereditary is a movie about family and the secrets we keep from them. At the center of it is Toni Collette who plays a mother who recently lost her own. The two were estranged towards the end, so she’s struggling to feel much of anything after the passing. During the grieving period though a mystery starts to unravel that proves her own mother was a very different person than she thought and lived a secret life that is threatening to undo her own family in the wake of her death.
The cast is absolutely incredible, especially Collette who has a face made for horror films. I mean that has the highest possible compliment and am referring to the expressions of terror, shock and gut-wrenching grief she experiences throughout it. In short, Collette has absolutely epic crazy eyes that are almost as nerve-racking as the actual horror elements of the film. In the film, her character does her best to protect her own family from her own grieving process, not wanting to put any more stress on them. Her stoicism though leads to her mask of sanity slowly slipping as the film goes on. She’s not the only member of the family that is suffering the loss of her mother though.
Her own daughter, played by newcomer Milly Shapiro, has a hard enough time dealing with people and things deteriorate rapidly after she loses her grandmother. Shapiro is unbelievably creepy from the moment she appears on screen. So much so, that I had to update my own list of the Creepiest Kids from Movies. Her off-putting performance invokes a sense of anxiety that lingers throughout the film and she is a sharp contrast to the rest of her family. While everyone has their issues in Hereditary, there is something clearly wrong with the young daughter of the family.
Director Ari Aster embraces a number of creepy thematic elements that all continuously add up in little ways. Collette’s character works with miniatures that unnervingly accurate recreations of everyday scenes in her life. They are so accurate in fact that there are times in the film where it isn’t clear if shots are of miniatures or of actual scenes. Shapiro’s character follows in her mother’s creative footsteps with her drawings and unsetting dolls that she makes from items she finds laying around. Together the two show that they have a need to escape from reality, but it’s questionable whether their hobbies are healthy or not. These are just small examples though, but most of the details in the film are small. Things that would be upsetting just on their own, but combined together create a visceral reaction in the audience. At times it’s almost hard to watch Hereditary, but it definitely pays off if you can keep your eyes open until the end. Trust me, there were plenty of horrified, profanity-filled whispers that could be heard throughout the theater when I saw it.
In typical horror fashion, Hereditary embraces the fact that white people do the dumbest things when it comes to the supernatural. Collette’s character becomes obsessed with unraveling the secrets of her mother, especially after the family experiences more tragedy. While the family is splintering apart from the events of the film, she starts an investigation into the paranormal to find answers and soon finds herself out of her depth. The results of her meddling where she doesn’t belong are absolutely terrifying. Aster though doesn’t focus on jump scares or a lot of blood splatter to tell this tale of horror. Instead, his approach is all about tone and pacing. Hereditary is a completely engulfing experience that you can not only see and hear but also feel. Don’t let that fool you though, there are still plenty of moments in the film that are hard to watch.
Hereditary is a hardcore horror film. A far departure from what we have gotten in theaters lately. The characters and story connect with the audience early on and because of the emotional bond, it is able to manipulate our feelings all the more easily. It’s not a film for the faint of heart or those prone to nightmares, because the unsettling feeling of anxiety it creates will linger with you long after the credits. The person I saw the film with commented that they did not feel safe after watching Hereditary, while I personally felt emotionally exhausted. For me, the fact that it was able to invoke such feelings proves that it is a more than successful entry into the genre. Those who want a real horror movie will not be disappointed in Hereditary.