Hereditary is a 2018 horror film directed by Ari Aster about a family who comes confronted with an unexpected death. Annie still grieving for her mother's death is faced with an even bigger challenge as she begins to unravel some secrets left behind following her mother's death that begins to involve her family. The film stars Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff, and Gabriel Byrne.
I did take a bit of time after the film to really sit and think about how I wanted to approach this review. I will begin with this, I loved it. I think in terms of horror, this is one of the best we have gotten in a very long time. At its core this film is essentially about grief. How we deal with it, what we do to do deal with it, and more importantly how we interpret what we feel, as is a big undertone after seeing this movie. The protagonist, Annie, even mentions very early on in the film that she doesn't know how she should feel, which was exactly how I felt watching the credits roll and seeing everyone walk past me as they exited the theater. This is a chilling, unsettling, and extremely disturbing film from the first frame until the last. There is imagery so dark, and so haunting that left me with my jaw dropped on many occasions. This movie doesn't contain the type of horror that you see in more of the mainstream Hollywood films that are riddled with something cut quickly with a loud noise used to make you jump. This film's horror goes beyond that and crawls deep into your brain and keeps you wondering for most of the film. There was a number of occasions (mostly in the third act) where the director makes a really smart choice to hold off on showing specific things on screen and for a very good reason. There was one extremely effective scene somewhere in the first act where the audience attending, including me, all gasped in horror at what was being shown on screen when it was finally shown. This is horror done right.
The performances in this movie truly make me think that this is capable of getting an Oscar nominee of Collette's performance. She plays a character that on the surface looks like the every day mom, and behaves like one very much through the entire first act. Somewhere in the middle of the film her character sort of switches gears as we begin to see glimpses of another side of her. As we begin to see this new side of her, the story begins to get into even darker territory as well, not only with the characters but with the dialogue and scenery that is presented. What this movie is asked of her to do is a lot and truly astounding that it was pulled off in the way that it was. Her facial expressions can change drastically along with her tone shifting from positive to negative within seconds. She performs in a way that almost could have been way too over the top but isn't. I am truly happy to see that every performance in Hereditary is top notch and done extremely well.
If there was anything that really bothered me in this film (and this may possibly be due to it being my first viewing of it), it's that from the beginning to the end of just about every film you can sort of figure out the direction it's going in. For example, The Babadook was a film that touched on mental illness and the possibility that maybe this thing was real. In that film we see the story progress that story, with this film there is a very noticeable change in what felt like the story was going in a completely different direction, but then comes back to it's origin in the end of the film. This was nothing that I would say was bad, because it certainly did answer a lot of questions but it also raised many more as it went on. I can't really say that this was an issue for me because this film needed that for us to understand what it was trying to convey. Upon first viewing I would say it's slightly bothersome.
When it comes to real issues I have with this film it's a character played by Ann Dowd. She's fine at first but then in the second act plays a major part in introducing a plot point but was very annoying and very distracting any minute she was on screen. She felt too over the top, which is saying something considering Collette's performance.
In the end, Hereditary is without a doubt one of the best horror films I've seen in recent years. It carries amazing performances from everyone involved and delivers a horrifying story with an even better execution.
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