Director Ari Aster
Genre Drama | Horror | Mystery
Cast Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro
Release Date June 8th, 2018
Written and directed by Ari Aster, Hereditary is a horror drama from the reputable independent film distributor A24, known most recently for horror thrillers such as It Comes at Night and The Witch. The film follows a grieving family who while dealing with the death of their reclusive grandmother, start uncovering dark secrets from their ancestry. The cast includes Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, and Milly Shapiro.
Extremely well-acted and deeply disturbing, Hereditary is genuine old school horror that will not only give you chills, it will haunt your thoughts long after you leave the theater. I’ll cut to the chase and say that I absolutely LOVE horror movies, and I have ever since I was a kid. Now any true horror fan has an understanding that not all horror films are created equal, and many really should be considered more along the lines of suspense thrillers- Get Out is a good example. As much as I enjoyed Get Out, and don’t get me wrong it was a really good movie with very little to criticize, it just wasn’t a horror movie. Critics have made comparisons by calling Hereditary this generations Exorcist, and I’ll be the first to say that they really aren’t off track with that comparison. A true horror movie is supposed to make you uneasy and actually give you chills, which don’t get me wrong is a tall order for someone who watches pretty much anything and everything considered to be horror- you basically become numb after a while. Hereditary is the rare horror film that combines all of the necessary components to create an immersive experience that is as horrifying as it is traumatic. You can discredit me all you want but when the first Paranormal Activity hit theaters in 2007, similar to the impact of The Blair Witch Project, I was in my seat at the theater with head to toes chills at times because quite honestly I didn’t know what to expect. Hereditary hit me in much of the same way, and even though this is more slow burn horror with a layered storyline and characters you actually care about, it will overtake you in a similar manner.
I honestly found myself feeling genuine sympathy for this family and the circumstances they found themselves in to the point where everything felt very real to me. Hereditary seamlessly blends the inescapable reality of behind the scenes family dynamics that would be troubling to say the least if put on display for the outside world. Now I never looked away during the movie, but I had a feeling of wanting to look away while having the need to take it all in at the same time. Hereditary also adapts the formula considered to be an absolute necessity by true horror enthusiasts, which is the simple idea that generally speaking the monster is scariest in the shadows. Creating something horrifying without showing the audience too much is a difficult task but it generally pays off if successful. Hereditary is just over 2 hours which admittedly is a bit long for a horror movie, but trust me when I say that the last thing you will be doing is checking the time. The score, the cinematography, the lighting, basically the less talked about building blocks of a great film are all intact and very much prevalent in Hereditary. One of the biggest strengths of the film is the mood that is set and maintained throughout, and that simply isn’t possible without the elements I just mentioned. I would hate myself if I neglected to point out the simple fact that all that I’ve mentioned really is an incredible accomplishment considering this is the directorial debut for Ari Aster. Aster, known for his short films, also wrote the script and as far as I can tell took great pride in bringing this project to fruition, and it shows. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. I could sit here and rave about this fantastic horror movie for hours and as much as I enjoy hearing myself think (does that make sense?), you just need to experience it for yourself.
The cast for Hereditary is nothing short of phenomenal. Generally speaking you can make a decent horror film with an average to below average cast due to the simple fact that the impact of the film stretches well behind the performances. I’m telling you that Hereditary is not that sort of movie, and the acting in this film is exceptional from top to bottom. The cast is anchored by Toni Collette, who delivers one of her best performances to date. She is exceptional as the misunderstood mother who wants nothing more than to care for her family. Collette is underrated and underappreciated in my personal opinion, and she deserves to be considered a legit Hollywood actress. It seems at this point and time her true talent is valued more in the indie film circuit, and honestly that’s fine with me. The performances she brings to the screen are truly art in every way shape or form, so the personal touch of an independent film seems to suit her just fine. Nat Wolfe plays Collette’s teenage son and he was meant to play this role. The chemistry between the two is incredible, and their ability to exhibit raw emotion is unmatched. Most people will recognize Wolfe from his roles in a few light hearted coming-of-age comedies, but I assure you this is a very different role for him, and to me he proved himself as a legitimate acting talent. I still can't get the pain and suffering he exhibited through facial expressions and body language out of my head, it felt that real. The daughter is played by Milly Shapiro, and she is fantastic as well. Everything about the character she plays gives you an uneasy feeling, and you can tell from the jump that whatever messed up events take place, she is more than likely at the root of it all. Even though he didn’t get as much screen time, veteran actor Gabriel Byrne was perfect as the father, and was essential to the dynamic of the cast. Ann Dowd, known for Justified and The Leftovers, was also very good.
Hereditary is a fantastic horror film and true homage to a struggling genre that could use the boost. This is true horror in the vein of The Exorcist, The Shining, The Conjuring, and It Follows, to name a few. Critics have been ecstatic about Hereditary ever since its debut at The Sundance Film Festival, so after I went to see it I decided to take some time reading audience reactions. I was disappointed to find that a number of viewers unfairly criticized the film citing a weak ending or just a lack of scares in general. My question is this, what movie did these people watch?! The bottom line is that Hereditary is a film that seamlessly blends horror and reality to the point where you will have a difficult time deciphering between the two, and that, my friends, is one heck of an accomplishment. If you consider yourself to be a true fan of horror and can comprehend the difference between a cash grab littered with jump scares and a horror movie with substance and depth, Hereditary is an experience you won’t soon forget. Go ahead and smash that piggy bank because you need to see this sooner than later- and if you’re anything like me you are already planning your second viewing. Highly recommended.