Hereditary is directed and written by Ari Aster and it’s his feature film debut. This movie tells the story of a family who is tormented by a dark presence when their grandmother dies. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne as the Graham family.
I first stumbled across this movie when I heard that A24 was doing a horror movie so I was intrigued and I saw the trailer. When the trailer finished I thought to myself, I can never ever see myself watching a movie like that. Months passed and then the reviews came in and they said that it was amazing. Not that other opinions influence mine but when people love a movie a lot, in most cases I do too so decided to check out the trailer again because I forgot, then I watched the second one and for some reason a part of me felt like watching it. There was something about it that I was attracted to, most probably it was Toni Collette’s stellar performance, I can still hear her scream “I am your Mother!” Then the movie came out, the reviews were mixed to brilliant, some people loved it, some hated it so I had no idea whether or not I was going to enjoy watching this movie.
From the opening scene alone you know that this movie is special. Already it’s a step up from an average horror flick thanks to it’s visual flair. I love what Ari Aster does with the miniatures, he says that the miniature are representing the Graham family meaning that dolls are being controlled by someone, so is the Graham family. That’s a really clever move and it’s a great analogy for this traumatized family. Like any great horror movie, this focuses on the characters and then scares the crap out of you. I’d say the first half was more shocking than it was scary but the second half is just jaw-dropping and disturbing and an all-round scare-fest (in the good way).
From the first trailer I already knew that there was this distinctive quality that separates Hereditary from other horror movies. It reminded me a lot of an early X-Files episode. Now the story is simple: a family gets tormented by a supernatural being and it just so happens that this starts to happen after the grandmother dies. We’ve seen this story before but what elevates it to not being predictable or boring (even though sometimes it can be) is the use of good characters and unique storytelling perspectives. Going into this movie I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was about to watch but boy was I wrong. This movie shifts gears within the first 30 minutes after a shocking scene, one which will definitely be on my mind for a while.
Tonally from the beginning you get a sense of what the movie will feel like, a family drama with supernatural elements but when the third act comes, especially the final few minutes of the movie which are just jaw-dropping (talk about a lot of gore) it feels like a different movie. What I mean is that the first two acts were in a way realistic even that shocking scene I mentioned, it felt like it could happen in real life with the dysfunctional family aspect done perfectly by both performances and dialogue. The third act screams “this is a horror movie” which isn’t a bad thing obviously this is a horror movie after all but the mythology behind the scares is what I didn’t particularly like, it has to do with satanic cults which maybe explains why.
One thing which I knew I would get going into this movie is great performances and I was not disappointed. Collette and Wolff own this movie. Collette is spectacular as Annie Graham. Whenever her character appears in any scene tension automatically increases. There is something about her which puts you off and that has to do with the tragic backstory she has and how she is dealing with death in the family now. My favourite scene in the entire movie is easily the dinner scene where she explodes (not literally). She delivers her lines perfectly in that scene and I can definitely see that scene becoming a classic in the future.
Wolff as the son, Peter in the family is great, this movie demands a lot out of him just like Collette only she knows how to cry, Wolff has this weird unconvincing cry which completely threw me off but other than that he was great in this movie. In my opinion the best scenes with him are the emotionally demanding ones, he knows how to convey and show emotion really well. Shapiro is also great as Charlie the youngest daughter, her character is the reason behind many of the movie’s worst images to show. I feel like they could’ve done more with her character but I like the way they handled it. Byrne plays the father who is trying to keep up with the mad things going on and he doesn’t really get to do much either. As I said this is Collette and Wolff’s movie!
Also the cinematography and the score are amazing. I love how Colin Stetson includes the sax in his score and for a horror movie at that. It definitely adds a lot of uniqueness to the score. Like most great horror movies this one doesn’t rely on jump scare almost at all, there’s only one scene with maybe two at most jump scare in them. One thing which I loved is how when you expect the movie to show you a jump scare or startle you, it doesn’t and it leaves you with this unnerving feeling. Another thing this movie made me think about is that most people today confuse gore and disturbing imagery with horror and this movie is marketed as a horror movie but in reality it’s a drama with gore and disturbing imagery but then again some people found it to be extremely scary. Fear is different from everyone’s perspective, what scares me could perhaps not scare you.
In the end Hereditary‘s reputation ultimately damages itself. It’s a great movie, with stellar performances and great set designs and a haunting score but at the end it’s just a really well-made drama with horror tropes. In my opinion Hereditary doesn’t offer something revolutionary, I don’t see this reinventing the horror genre any time soon, but nonetheless I love this movie and I wouldn’t mind watching it again.