Director: Ari Aster
Writer: Ari Aster
Cast: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne and Ann Dowd
Synopsis: When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
A24 as a studio is killing it right now, and when it comes to their horror films, they only have – really – two of them now. The Witch turned a lot of heads and now you have Hereditary. The film also turned a lot of heads, and some are even calling it the best horror film in some time, as well, as a modern day Exorcist. Obviously, those are very big claims to make, and doesn’t help if people are willing to accept that. So, does Hereditary live up to the hype, or is just another independent horror film that is overhyped?
Hereditary follows the Graham family with mother Annie (Toni Collette), father Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and their two children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro). After the death of Annie’s mother, Annie gets lost in her work of miniature sculptures and Charlie starts to exhibit weird behavior. Things only get worse when strange and unexplainable incidents start to occur.
That’s the bare bones of Hereditary’s story, and that’s about all you should know before walking into to watch it yourself. Hereditary truly works when you know nothing about the movie. Even if you’ve seen the trailers, believe me, it doesn’t give away anything about the movie. That being said, even though the movie is marketed as a horror movie, at the end of the day, Hereditary is a family drama through-and-through.
All credit goes to first time feature film director/writer Ari Aster, who crafted a compelling story about this family and adding horror elements that actually make sense to the history of the characters, and aren’t thrown in for the sake of having a scare or making the film creepy for audiences. There is enough of that to go around, but in this particular film, the scares are connected to the Graham family. We get a great sense of why the characters act like they do, and more important, what has led them to where they are now.
But as much credit Aster should get, Hereditary is carried by Toni Collette. She is put through the ringer here, and she carries it in stride. Her performance as Annie and the slow descent she goes through in the movie is amazing to watch, and one of the standout performances of the year by far. Alex Wolff is also given a breakout performance here as the young son, who also goes through his own mental descent, and newcomer Milly Shapiro as Charlie also breaks out in her own way as the younger Graham family member.
The main thing about Hereditary, much like a lot of independent horror films now, is that it will not be for everyone. Hereditary, like The Witch and even It Comes at Night, is an aggressive slow-burn that will test your patience, and then reward you with nightmare fuel in a grand finale. That said, the family drama keeps you invested – hopefully – but the slow burn will likely keep people from being fully invested, and once the third act kicks in, it might be too late.
All in all, Hereditary will definitely not be for everyone. It’s a slow burn family drama horror film that keeps the main scares at bay, while trying to creep you out in meantime. The film is carried by Toni Collette, who brings the right amount of range to everything that is asked of her. If you’re watching Hereditary and ask yourself at the end, “what the hell was that?” You’ve seen the right movie
3.5 out of 5