REVIEW – “Hereditary”
As a life-long fan of the horror genre, I take a little bit of pride in feeling desensitized to the scares and content of current horror films. I don’t necessarily feel above these films, but it’s somewhat fun to look at them from afar and see how scares hit for other viewers. By doing this, I’ve somehow become even more of an admirer for when certain horror films can craft something truly worthwhile in a genre that has been flipped inside and out more times than I can count. Whether it be how many tropes a filmmaker decides to subvert or how expertly they calculate their inevitable scares, I’m endlessly fascinated by the art of horror… even if doesn’t usually scare me. Every year, I’m met with hype for a horror film to finally be “the one” to scare me again. This year, ever since it premiered at Sundance, I’ve heard non-stop buzz and praise for Hereditary. And you know what? I respect this film too much to dance around it any longer – it scared the living shit out of me. It made me have to turn on the hallway lights in my apartment while trying to get to my bedroom after the screening. I tossed and turned at night, still reeling from what I experienced, with images permanently engraved into my mind. Hereditary is the real deal.
Hereditary follows the Graham family as they are still grieving the death of their complicated grandmother. Annie (Toni Collette) has always had a difficult and confusing relationship with her mother, but it doesn’t prevent the grief from hitting her in unexpected ways. Annie’s daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is having the hardest time with the loss of her grandmother, while her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and son Peter (Alex Wolff) feel indifferent to the whole thing. This is all established within the film’s first 10-15 minutes and immediately makes for an interesting dynamic between the entire family. They are all so emotionally closeted from one another and on completely different levels of grief. And that’s all I really want to say about the plot. You can guess that shit hits the fan in some way as it is a horror film, but I truly want people to go into this as blind as possible. If you let it, it will shock the hell out of you and leave you completely speechless.
The entire cast here is pretty fantastic. Gabriel Byrne does a wonderful job as the husband who is well-meaning but looks as if he’s about to give up at any given moment, Milly Shapiro gives a tremendously creepy performance, and it’s always nice to see Ann Dowd in anything. But the standouts here are really Alex Wolff and Toni Collette, who both give the best performances I’ve ever seen from them. Wolff is heartbreaking, terrifying, and fragile all at once in this role. I know how young he is, but if this is somehow not the best performance he ever gives, then expect this kid to win an Oscar one day. As for Collette, she deserves to win the Oscar in 2019. I sincerely apologize to the amazing performances I know I will see towards the end of the year, but Collette delivers the type of performance that veteran actors strive their entire careers to achieve. She is somehow fiercely strong and completely broken all at once – a cinematic firecracker of emotions that is utterly fascinating to watch from beginning to end. One particular scene between Wolff and Collette at a dinner table could be played for either of them at the Oscars. They are that good.
This is somehow Ari Aster’s first feature length film. The precision and mastery of the craft is truly unfathomable for someone who is both so young and never made a full-length film before. Hereditary sure does have the energy and ambitions of a first-time director, but the expertise and sheer auteurism that is inhabited within every frame of this film is genuinely mind-blowing and it makes me thankful that I’m living to see the start of what is destined to be a fascinating career. The way he frames his shots, paces his story, and plays with the audience is pure genius. Hereditary is the first horror film in my lifetime, that I’ve seen in theaters, that I can actually say has scared me. It did more than make me jump – it left me speechless as the credits rolled and completely unsettled by the themes, imagery, and relentlessness of the content. I somehow adored this movie even though it messed me up so much. I’m confident in saying it’s a masterpiece. 5/5.