Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s likely you’ve heard of Hereditary. You know, the horror movie that is widely considered to be the “scariest of 2018” or “this generations The Exorcist”. That’s quite a claim, especially in such a divisive genre. Hereditary was written & directed by Ari Aster, on his directional debut. In short, it follows a family haunted after the death of their secretive grandmother. Does it live up to the hype?
Annie Graham is an artist who specializes in miniatures. She lives with her husband, Steve, their 16-year-old son Peter and their 13-year-old daughter Charlie. At the funeral of her mother, Ellen, Annie delivers a eulogy explaining their fraught relationship. Shortly after, Steve is informed that Ellen’s grave has been desecrated, while Annie thinks she sees Ellen in her workshop.
Annie secretively attends a support group for those that have lost loved ones. She reveals that the rest of her family suffered from mental illnesses that resulted in their deaths.
Annie forces Peter to take Charlie to a party with him. Unsupervised, Charlie eats cake containing nuts, which she is allergic to, and falls into anaphylactic shock. On the way to the hospital, Charlie partially climbs out of the window to get air. Peter swerves to avoid a dead animal and Charlie is decapitated by a telephone pole. The family grieves following Charlie’s funeral, heightening tensions between Annie and Peter. Peter is plagued by Charlie’s presence around the house.
Annie is befriended by a support group member, Joan. She teaches Annie to perform a séance to communicate with Charlie. In a nightmare, Annie reveals to Peter that she tried to abort him when she was pregnant. Awake, she convinces her family to attempt the séance, during which Charlie seemingly possesses her until Steve douses her with water. Annie suspects that Charlie’s spirit has become malevolent. She throws Charlie’s sketchbook into the fireplace, but her sleeve also begins to burn. She retrieves it and heads to Joan’s apartment for advice, but Joan has vanished.
From this point on, everything begins to spiral out of control. No spoilers here, check out Hereditary to find out what happens.
I’ll get straight to the point, Hereditary may be the “scariest horror movie of 2018” to some but it didn’t do much for me in that regard. Don’t get me wrong, it is often immensely unsettling and has more than a couple of creepy moments. However, in my opinion it isn’t the type of horror film that will keep you up at night. If I seem down on it then I apologize because I really liked it, let me elaborate.
Much like many of the other films that come from distributor A24 e.g. The Witch, It Comes at Night, Ex Machina, A Ghost Story etc. Hereditary is an artistic film that may feel slow for some. At times, it is rather sluggish. However, not once did I feel bored. In fact, Hereditary managed to keep me intrigued throughout.
As I mentioned above, this is the directional debut of Ari Aster. I genuinely don’t want to understate how beautifully shot this film is. In the opening scene, we see what looks like a miniature room. The camera pans in as Peter enters and it becomes life-size. There are a number of these types of moments throughout. It gives Hereditary a very distinct style. I enjoyed not knowing if what I was seeing was real or simply a miniature structure.
The performances in Hereditary can best be described in one word, intense. Genuinely, Toni Collette gives it her absolute all. Also, I was really impressed by Alex Wolff who plays Peter.
Back to talking about the horror elements in the film. As I already mentioned, there are some very creepy, unsettling scenes. I give high praise to the subtlety of the scares. For the most part, they depend more on heightened tension & emotion. There isn’t a jump scare in sight which is great. On the whole, there is a lot of unsettling imagery rather than out and out scares. Still, I commend it for maintaining the very dark & sinister tones throughout. I’ve thought about it extensively and I can’t figure out why this didn’t scare me but it just didn’t. For those that are less desensitized than me, this may terrify you.
I’ll give Hereditary this much, it has the best horrified staring/facial expressions I have ever seen.
The special effects are impressive, especially when you learn how far the team went to make certain moment’s look and feel authentic. On a side note, I found it interesting that Charlie dies. It’s an excellent moment in terms of shock factor. Still, she’s pretty much the face of the film.
Hereditary is much more about Peter but he’s barely on any of the promotional material or advertising. I’m not saying she’s unimportant but still.
Overall, I haven’t seen every horror film in 2018 so I cannot confirm if Hereditary is the scariest or not. However, what I can confirm is that it is a damn fine horror movie that is well worth a watch. I certainly won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
The Final Score - 8/10