“Hereditary” stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, and Gabriel Byrne. Released on June 8, 2018, the film is about a family who encounters sinister events after the death of their grandmother.
The film features the directorial debut of Ari Aster. Oh boy, it looks like I’m starting this weekend off by getting into some darker territory. Since its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival back in January, the film has received huge amounts of praise from critics, with one reviewer calling it “‘The Exorcist’ for a new generation”. That alone does sound like a satisfying accomplishment for a first-time director, but will mainstream audiences feel the same way? Let’s put on some big-boy panties and find out.
The story places its focus on a family living in the woods, which consists of scale model artist Annie Graham (Collette), husband Steve (Byrne), their two kids Peter (Wolff) and Charlie (Shapiro), and their reclusive grandmother Ellen. Following the death of their grandmother, Annie and her family slowly begin to discover secrets that were both shocking and disturbing. I would tell you what those secrets are, but I don’t want to ruin the experience for everybody else. When I said that I’m getting into some darker territory, I seriously mean that I’m getting into some darker territory. This is the type of horror film that uses imagery and atmosphere to frighten its audience instead of cheap jump scares and CGI creatures. The story does involve some supernatural elements, but it also showcases a couple of depressing portrayals of how a family deals with a loss of a loved one. Combined with its dark tone and some effective uses of creepiness, this film is, without a doubt, one of the most haunting experiences that I have ever witnessed on the big screen. Not only that, but the film’s screenplay works its way around its usual horror tropes to deliver a couple of unexpected surprises that made my jaw drop to the ground. There were a few slow parts that may bore some fans of fast-paced horror films, but Ari Aster had done wonders in making these slow parts engaging as well as having a sheer amount of confidence in combining storytelling with scares. Toni Collette and Alex Wolff delivered some excellent performances as Annie and Peter, respectively. I can clearly tell what these characters are going through both emotionally and mentally because of how the actors portrayed them. I’m willing to bet that Collette should at least get some recognition for her performance because her raw emotion is just as disturbing as the concept itself. As for Wolff, all I can say is that he should be in more roles like this. Not just horror, but drama as well. The cinematography is the main highlight of the film in terms of the editing and how it was shot. It’s almost like I was in this realistic nightmare with these characters, which definitely adds to the film’s creepiness. The musical score by Colin Stetson was also really impressive in matching the film’s dark and depressing tone. The only flaw I had with “Hereditary” was its runtime, which clocks in at around two hours and seven minutes. This is probably the longest horror film I’ve seen since “It” last September. For a concept like this, I think it’s a bit too much for those who couldn’t stand the sight of the film’s disturbing depictions. If it’s under two hours, then it should be fine, but anything over that limit? That’s pushing it too far, but that’s just how I see it.
Overall, “Hereditary” is an unnerving experience that may leave horror fans either speechless or impressed. First-time director Ari Aster has created a brilliant and dark piece of horror art that might have a chance to become a classic in the near future. Thanks to its strong cast, Aster’s screenplay, its flawless cinematography, and Colin Stetson’s haunting score, this is a terrifying movie that’s done right. Despite how much I liked how it turned out, this is something that I wouldn’t watch again immediately because it made me feel a bit uneasy. Hopefully the other films that I’ll be looking at soon will help me recover. If you’re a bit concerned about the film’s amount of disturbing imagery, but wanted to see it anyway, I would say wait until it’s available to watch at home. Other than that, it’s worth checking out if you're into well-made horror films.