So I’ve just come from the theater after seeing this film, so I might just be riding off the immediate high of the flick, but I genuinely believe that Hereditary is the best horror film released this decade. And believe me, this decade has seen some incredible horror films. It’s that good.
It’s difficult to describe what Hereditary is about. It’s the kind of movie that for the first half hour or so, everything just seems a bit…off. But as it picks up steam, well, you’d better take a step back. But what you need to know is this film’s creepy crawlings revolves around one family’s gradual descent into disarray. It stars a well-worn Gabriel Byrne as the skeptic father, a masterful Alex Wolff as the tortured son, and a legendary performance from Toni Collette as the center of the film: The mother, with hereditary demons, both literally and…well, you’ll see. Collette gives the kind of performance that will never be forgotten. Her work in this film will likely seep its way into the audience’s minds late at night, years after seeing it for the first time. Wolff really ought to be given some credit as well, as his work here is very subtle and extremely difficult to pull off. If Netflix’s Death Note is any metric, Alex is clearly the more talented of the Wolff brothers. Furthermore, it is surely impossible to leave Hereditary without being captivated by the young Milly Shapiro. She plays the daughter of the family and gives an incredibly interesting performance for an actress her age. I can’t quite figure out what it is about her work here that makes her so entrancing but she certainly will be a talent to watch in the future.
There should be college courses taught on the way this film crafts a story. It lays out several bits in the first half of the film that are off-putting but more confusing than scary. But as the plot progresses and more details are revealed, the product becomes more and more disturbing. The places this movie goes are UNREAL. In theory, there are some aspects of the movie that could be confused with cliche but, in all honesty, this movie is so inventive and so scary it deserves to be hallowed alongside The Shining or Eraserhead. It’s a testament to subtle filmmaking. In a year that captivated audiences with A Quiet Place, a film that is enjoyable but certainly showy, we should be celebrating this kind of storytelling. Granted, while it remains pretty reserved for most of the runtime, Hereditary knows very well how to sell an ending. Believe me, they don’t leave anything on the table.
Beyond just being a world class horror film, Hereditary remains a technical marvel. The cinematography is revolutionary. The DP, Pawel Pogorzelski, lit each shot in these very haunting ways, but more importantly, knew that many times what you don’t see is scarier than what you do. The house they picked as location is imposing and beautiful, not unlike the film itself. And one mustn’t forget the unparalleled work performed by this film’s makeup team. But at the end of the day, the real achievement must be awarded to director Ari Aster. His auteur style created a truly breathtaking film that is nothing short of transcendent for a first feature. The last thirty minutes put me into a state that I can only describe as panic. No other horror film that I’ve seen has been quite this unnerving. It truly is one of a kind.
All images are from Hereditary, by A24