Earlier this week, I took myself to the cinema to check out the new horror that’s making waves amongst the horror community. It was released in the US before it hit the UK, so I’d been impatiently reading positive review after positive review, whilst waiting to see it. The accolades it was attracting were pretty impressive – ‘The scariest movie I’ve ever seen’, ‘A modern masterpiece’, ‘It stayed with me for days afterwards’, ‘I still feel traumatised’ being amongst some quotes I had read. Being a big horror fan and finding it increasingly difficult to find a good horror these days, obviously I was intrigued. So some background about the movie. This movie unbelievably is from a writer and director who is pretty new to the scene – Ari Aster. He is mostly known for ‘shorts’ he has written or directed in the past. He has always had a pretty small, specific demographic, so most people are not really aware of him. Well they most definitely are now, as all the positive comments I read about this movie which made me so desperate to see it, were absolutely true.
Hereditary stars Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, Muriels Wedding) as the mother Annie, Golden Globe winner Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, In Treatment) as the father Steve, newcomer Milly Shapiro as the unique and troubled daughter Charlie and Alex Wolff (Patriots Day, My friend Dahmer) as the son Peter.
I cannot say enough positive things about all the acting performances in this movie, but most noteably the actors mentioned above. They worked perfectly together as the highly dysfunctional family who have lost the matriach & grandmother of their family. This movie is a very difficult one to review, as saying too much about the plot would ruin the experience for the viewer. I went into this movie knowing as little as I possibly could and that way, I feel I experienced what the director would have intended. I would even urge you not to even watch the trailer before having seen Hereditary in its entirety as it gives WAY too much away.
We start the movie with the knowledge that Annies mother has passed away. It is clear that there was never a normal family dynamic between Annie & her mother as the very uncomfortable eulogy she gives at the funeral conveys. We spent the first half of the movie getting to know the family, their different characters, foibles and how they relate and interact with one another. I have heard this being described as ‘slow’ or ‘long-winded’ by some, but I totally disagree. I feel that Hereditary shares this style with movies like The Exorcist and Rosemarys Baby, where the tension and discomfort is built slowly and subtley. This movie shows that the complexity of human emotions and the destruction of reationships and even sanity can be just as horrific and disturbing as the biggest jumpscare or bloodiest gorefest. The way the film is constructed is nothing short of a masterpiece. The pacing, the editing, the cinematography, and the use of sound all worked together to create a truly unique and disturbing vision. I have loved horror movies all my life and I’ve found that I rarely jump or feel tense, but this film made me feel a multitude of emotions that I can honestly say, I have never felt whilst watching one movie.
Toni Collette gives an Oscar-worthy performance delving right into every emotion in the book and each portrayal is utterly compelling. I can honestly say she completely took my breath away and carried me along with her on the journey. I wanted to look away several times, but found myself unable to. I was glued to the screen and as hard as I found it to watch some parts of this movie, I didn’t want to miss a second of what I knew was to become an absolute classic. As much as everyone is talking about Toni Collettes performance in the movie, I feel a special mention also should go to Alex Wolff, who plays her son Peter. He is an incredible talent and I look forward to following his career, which I am sure will go from strength to strength on the basis of this performance. He plays one particular scene where, rather than concentrate on a particularly horrible event which has happened, the camera focuses purely on Peters face and captures, not the event, but rather his reaction to the event and the series of emotions which follow. This scene is immensely powerful and as with his mother Annie’s emotional journey throughout the movie, we find ourselves carried along, as a passenger within Peters mind.
Where most of today’s horror can be sadly lacking, especially in its attempt at building a tense, unsettling atmosphere, Hereditary can proudly stand alongside masters at this craft like The Shining and the previously mentioned Rosemary’s baby. There are more than ripples building in the horror community about this movie, more-so great big waves! It gives us hope that we can still be surprised, shocked, stunned and horrified with fantastic movie-making.
I don’t want to give away anything of the storyline, but I will say this movie builds to an absolute horrific crescendo. For me the concentration on the characters, their relationships, emotions and mental state only adds to the disturbing nature of the ending. Ari Aster has proven with this movie that he is already a master of the craft of movie-making and watching Hereditary can only be compared to watching and marveling at a master at work. Each scene is intricately woven together, nothing is incidental. Dialogue and occurrences which may seem insignificant, slot into a finished puzzle like a perfectly formed jigsaw piece.
So, as you can imagine, in conclusion, I am throughly recommending you go out and see this. If possible go out and catch it while it is at the cinema. It is most definitely going to be a classic of the future and I for one am glad I will be able to say “Hereditary? I was lucky enough to see it in theatres”.
– Lisa Davy
Lisa Loves on YouTube.