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Hereditary – Movie Review

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Hereditary – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

Grief can affect family members in different ways and with Hereditary, director/writer Ari Aster seems to want to explore that to the extreme. There’s an unsettling quality to the entire film that works in its favour with a fair amount of shocking surprises. The best scenes ultimately come from watching the family completely unravel and the unusual events that push them to the brink. Aster utilises the right amount of creepy and disturbing imagery, but he’s not being gratuitous for the sake of it. Most importantly, Aster uses the scares to develop the characters and allow us to get inside of their heads.

Hereditary gives the proper amount of time to each of the Grahams, as Aster shows their various predicaments and the way they cope with the death of a family member. This is mostly shown through Annie’s eyes and her unusual model work. Aster and his director of photography Pawel Pogorzelski are certainly being showy in how they choose to depict the household, but not in a distracting way. They cleverly tie these models in with the plot and Annie’s mindset. Toni Collette plays the role superbly well, showing the proper amount of fear, anger and sadness such a person would go through in these situations. A lot of focus is also put on the younger sister, Charlie. Newcomer Milly Shapiro uses primarily her facial expressions to play her and it doesn’t take long to understand her motivations and what sets her apart from her family.

As events get more bonkers, Hereditary allows us to understand why everyone reacts the way they do. Gabriel Byrne’s husband is portrayed as dismissive of his wife’s actions in light of her mother’s death, but it also makes a lot of sense where he’s coming from. Alex Wolff’s drug-addled teenager goes through the most hell, with some curious directions taken. He could have been a completely irredeemable character and yet there is an odd bit of sympathy gained as the story plays on. Key to a lot of the film’s success is surprisingly the house. Asker and Pogorzelski take full advantage of the many rooms of this house and the sound designers definitely had fun with the various creeks of its wooden floors.

There are a lot of special effects in Hereditary, which are impressively put together. These effects enhance the terror and there’s a curiousity factor in how the filmmakers pulled them off. While there is a lot of horrific imagery throughout Hereditary, some of the more impactful moments also come from just dialogue scenes. There’s a dinner table scene which Aster builds to its full momentum. Toni Collette is given a few chances to monologue, including one scene where the camera subtly moves close up and around her. The film gets crazier as it continues, but the images never get in the way of the Grahams and the various thoughts going through their minds. Hereditary creates the proper investment through its two hour runtime.

You get the proper scares in Hereditary, but the things that go bump in the night are only a secondary concern. Instead, we’re pulled into this family tragedy and their frustrations as the inner grief mounts up. This is a slow burn, but Ari Aster rewards us at every turn with surprises that feel genuine and earned. This is an unusual family dynamic and their interactions are responsible for the film’s best moments. Hereditary is just the latest example of this current golden age of horror and the sophistication so many filmmakers are bringing to one of the most impactful film genres.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison