Review: Hereditary

June 1, 2018

Personally, I think it seems silly to say that you love a certain movie studio.  There are so many movie studios now that finding one that has a stellar success rate (outside of Pixar) is pretty rare.  However, A24 is new on the scene and they’ve already given us insanely great films like Ex Machina, Room, The Lobster, Swiss Army Man, The End of the Tour, Moonlight, A Ghost Story, Lady Bird, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Disaster Artist just to name a few.  However, what I love the most about A24 is how daring they are with horror films.  It’s true that Blumehouse is running away with the horror genre as far as money makers go but A24 is a breeding house for avant garde spook shows that are truly groundbreaking and unique, such as Tusk, The Witch (one of the best films of 2016), Green Room, Under the Skin, It Comes at Night, The Monster, and now Hereditary.

To say that Hereditary is a horror film is an understatement; it’s a horrific film and I mean that in the greatest sense of the word.  It’s true that it’s not original in story considering it’s your basic occult/possession/haunted house plot but everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is ratcheted up to 11 and executed on an Oscar-worthy level.  What’s even more impressive is that it's from a first-time filmmaker named Ari Aster.  You would never in a million years guess that this was Aster’s first feature film considering that his vision is as disciplined as Kubrik’s, as intense as Scorsese’s, and as atmospheric as Hitchcock's.  Everything has purpose in this film and there is zero fat to trim.  A sense of foreboding and unease is created from the very opening shot.  By the time the end credits roll audience members are left shaken, disturbed, and left with a “WTF” gape in their mouths.  All of that is created by the world Aster built.

This is a film that primarily stars only four people and they portray a family haunted by more than just malevolent spirits.  Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, The Sixth Sense), Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, Stigmata), Alex Wolff (Jumanji, Patriot’s Day) and newcomer Milly Shapairo are the family members that are tortured for over two hours in what is almost unwatchable turmoil.  Everyone in the film is staggeringly excellent but Collette and Wolff deserve Oscar nominations.  In fact, if Collette doesn’t win Best Actress for this, it will have to be because whoever beats her gives a performance the likes of which haven’t been seen in years.  She is an absolute powerhouse in Hereditary and seems like she was personally exhausted and emotionally abused to give the portrayal of the matriarch like she does.

Every review I’ve written about a horror film comes with a note that what scares you is very personal.  I can’t promise you that you’ll find Hereditary “scary” in the sense that you’ll jump out of your seat, although there are plenty of jump scares.  What I can promise you is that you’ll find Hereditary unsettling and distressing.  The horror isn’t just supernatural; it’s also very, very real.  Themes like child loss, resentment, mental illness, loss of parental love and protection are all presented in some of the most horrific and accurate representations I’ve ever seen in film and that’s coming from someone who’s lived through actual child loss.  Hereditary pulls zero punches and wants to chill you to your marrow over things that are fantastic as well as realistic.

If what I’m saying sounds too intense for you, avoid Hereditary at all costs.  This isn’t a film for a casual fan of horror or drama.  Some would wonder why anyone would want to see a movie like this in the first place.  Well, that’s a good question but don't say you weren't warned.  I guess, people like me like to be pushed and challenged by movies every once in a while.  I think evoking emotions like this are therapeutic and I certainly appreciate the thought that goes into artistically portraying it.  Hereditary will go down in cinematic history as one of the greatest horror films of all time.  It’s wonderfully horrific and expertly executed.  As sick as it sounds, I can’t wait to watch it again and see all the stuff I had to look away from on the first viewing.