Director: Ari Aster
Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne. USA. 2h 7m
Boldly highlighted as the most frightening film of all time, Hereditary certainly does have its moments and a dark twisted ending but is it really all that horrific? It’s undeniably creepy and boils into a crescendo of violence and psychological demise, but what it doesn’t offer are hoards of false jump scares, buckets of blood or unbelievable torture porn.
It’s hard to detail the movie as it’s subtle approach and devilish details makes it something that once explained will ruin many surprises. The movie does manage to support a constant feeling of dread for the first 90 minutes it’s hard to really see which direction the film is taking, hard to know what’s real and what might be a dream and ultimately it lines up a powerful ending that won’t be predicted by the more discerning horror fan.
Annie Graham (Collette) is an artist who works on extremely detailed diarahams, often depicting her mundane life, the works offer a level of therapy but the mother who is coming to terms with the death of her complicated and distant mother, needs more help and soon joins a grief management circle who meet in a church basement. Her family are pretty much left to their own devices, the family dynamics are surreal, each person seems very detached, the teenage pothead son who’s merely drifting through life, his younger sister Charlie (Shapiro), a very unique character with tons of idiosyncrasies, who loses herself in notebooks, sketching people around her. The only person who tries to keep the family grounded is the solid and frank husband Steve (Byrne) It’s often through his eyes that the film finds a a sensible grounding.
To it’s merit Hereditary seems to be inspired by a host of classic horrors, not the gore violent kind but those cult classics which scared adults and stick in the mind of those who appreciate the more cerebral aspect of the genre, not to say that it doesn’t have flavours of everything else, there is blood, don’t panic. There’s hints of Amityville, the Exorcist, even hints of Asian horrors such as The Grudge. But within this rich tapestry there is a brilliant exhilarated story which is something quite new, while it uses some cliche moments, a grieving mother using a seance to contact a loved one, isn’t something new, and it’s easy to read the scene and make assumptions but you really don’t know what is going on despite having all the usual tell tale signs.
Once the movie gets going there isn’t a lack of shocking images, mutilated flesh, weird behaviour, all highlighted with beams of lights and a smart soundtrack that really enhance something but what exactly? The more you puzzle over it the more off the beaten track you’ll end up, the best method is to sick back and enjoy the ride.
For the most part Hereditary has a brilliantly macabre mystery that is slowly uncovered, along with some terrible events that seem to plague one family. It substitutes violence for grief, which has a much longer lasting effect on the psyche of the viewer than if it were just 2 hours of mindless violence, but when it does get gritty it happens in such a way that it’s almost undetectable.
Aster has a particular knack for finding that unsettling are that is a dark dread, those irrational fear that we are all guilty of all come into play, the atmosphere and situations are presented in a way which makes you check that there isn’t something sinister lurking just out of sight, the movies final scene raises all sorts of questions and for this it’s worth re watching the film for those Eureka moments. It also will allow for the groundbreaking cinematography (thanks to Pawel Pogorzelski) to really hit home as it deserves special recognition and I can only hope that everyone is on board for Aster next movie Midsommar.
L: Modern Paranormal Horrors, Family Horrors
A: What is the greatest horror..