ABOUT THE WRITER: Harry Sabulis is a film, music, theatre and media crazed writer with a passion for all things artsy. A certified nerd and aspiring screenwriter, Harry loves storytelling in all of its forms. You can read some of his film reviews on his blog, Kill The Critic.
Whether you love it or hate it, Hereditary is a film that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. The debut feature from writer/director Ari Aster is nothing short of one of the most visceral horror films of this century – but how does the rest of the film compare beyond the shock?
While it may be hard to explain exactly what’s going on in Hereditary, a rough description is this: the film follows a dysfunctional family who are haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their reclusive grandmother. The film bares similarity to classic horrors such as The Exorcist in terms of supernatural themes; but more so from its graphic nature – because while The Exorcist shocked people at the time, this film makes it look like an episode of Teletubbies.
For those unfamiliar with the horror genre, Hereditary probably isn’t the place to start. While the film’s promotional material was aptly mysterious and intriguing – something the film’s production company A24 does well – the story takes many twists and turns to some of the darkest places of the human mind.
While mystery is always a powerful drive in a film, some things within Hereditary seemed to be mystery for mystery’s sake. The foreshadowing within the early portion of the film that lead into the film’s completely bonkers third act was very well seeded, though there were parts that didn’t factor into the story that might leave the viewer confused. Though it begs a second watch to truly delve into, there are plenty of misdirects that almost take away from the big reveal.
That being said, Hereditary isn’t a bad film. The shock value is evenly matched with inventive use of score and camera, building a sickening tension as the film edges closer and closer to the bizarre truth of the situation. Toni Collette carries the film as a dysfunctional mother in the midst of a family crisis with support from her equally weird family; Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne and Milly Shapiro in her film debut.
Perhaps the most significant part of Hereditary’s success however is its use of graphic gore to drive the story forward. While starting off the film with the death of relative is seemingly dark enough, the story drives into some disgusting and horrific places. The film’s finale is the absolute pinnacle of this, as the conclusion will no doubt leave many audience members both terrified and scratching their heads.
Despite this conclusion however, the film does (to an extent) make sense. While Collette steals the show as Annie Graham, the film can also be viewed as the story of her son Peter (played by Wolff). The tragic and frightening finale, while seemingly out of the blue, is hinted at throughout the film, with sly nods to the characters’ ultimate fates in seemingly insignificant comments and background.
Even beyond the chilling yet confusing narrative and the technical portrayal of this grim story, if you’re used to horror films already Hereditary is entertaining. While some viewers might be curled up in their seats, horror fans will no doubt find something to laugh about in the outlandish and sometimes ridiculous displays of terror (so bring some friends along with you).
Though polarising and out of the ordinary, Hereditary stands strong another triumph of modern horror. Just don’t see it with your family if you can avoid it.