Review: Hereditary (2018)

Ants.  They may not look creepy on the surface, but put them in a horror movie and good things will happen.  And thanks to the new movie Hereditary, you get to see a lot of ants!  And other fucked up shit too that might scar you for life.  Let’s discuss!  

Hereditary is the latest horror movie from A24 and is written and directed by Ari Aster.  And it’s also the latest horror movie to be deemed ‘The scariest movie since The Exorcist!“.  Is that part true?  Heavily debatable.  But Hereditary still manages to get under your skin numerous times, and throw some softball and hardball shocks your way when you might least be expecting it.

Toni Collette plays Annie, a woman wondering if she should be grieving more than she does after her mother dies.  Her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is taking her grandmother’s death the hardest, as she was the closest to her.  Peter (Alex Wolff), is the teenage son doing what most teenagers do:  smoking weed and trying to make his move on the pretty girl in his class.  Rounding out the family is Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), the most level-headed of the bunch who tries to handle everyone and everything that’s about to be thrown at him the best he can.

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Annie goes to a grieving support group one night, where it’s revealed in front of everyone else in attendance that aside from her mother passing away – she also lost her brother to suicide, her father to starvation, and it’s also revealed that her mother suffered from dissociative identity disorder.  In a nutshell, there has obviously been a lot of mental illness in her family and Annie tries to come to terms with whether or not she or her children will go down a similar path.

Now, from what I’ve already told you about the story – it seems fairly simple, right?  The problem with telling you any more would be that I might ruin some of the surprises and twists that come with Hereditary, much like the trailer did for me.  Unfortunately, some of the better images of the trailer desensitized me to when I saw them happen on the big screen.  What I can tell you is that this is not your typical Hollywood horror movie.  There are no rules.  There are no safe moments.  And there are moments where you will feel uneasy, uncomfortable, and unsure if you want to keep watching.

I have to give it up to writer/director Ari Aster.  Considering this is his first feature length film, it’s quite the way to come onto the scene.  Hereditary looks amazing, and shots linger for longer than should……in a good way.  Emotion pours out of the lens at times (a scene involving Peter comes to mind where he’s in the driver’s seat after something horrifying happens), and Aster has already put his name on the list of horror directors (or directors in general) to monitor going forward.

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This movie wouldn’t be anything without Toni Collette’s gut-wrenching, head-turning performance as not only someone who grieves – but also someone who walks the line of sanity.  You feel her pain and feel her frustration as all of the events around her start to unravel.  Let’s praise the work of the other actors as well (Gabriel Byrne is always on point), especially newcomer Milly Shapiro who evokes a creepy innocence that paves the way for a fantastic debut.

Ok – let’s talk about all of the imagery and disturbing scenes in Hereditary.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so continuously uneasy watching a horror movie before, and the random and sometimes horrific imagery is a huge part of that.  The haunting score by Colin Stetson also contributes, but visually this movie is on another level.  The last 20 minutes are quite the ride.  Have we seen a lot of the subject matter in other horror movies before?  Of course.  But never have you seen it quite like this or with the emotional gut punch that accompanies it.

My only minor gripe would be with something that I just mentioned:  That we have seen the subject matter of Hereditary before.  But when it’s done this well, all of that can be forgiven.  It runs a little long (slightly over 2 hours), so that might turn some people off because it is definitely a slow burn.  I wasn’t bothered by that, as the characters and visual treats kept me interested the whole time.

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Now, I don’t feel that Hereditary is the scariest move since The Exorcist.  But, it is the best horror (and possibly best overall) film of the year for me so far and it’s more unsettling than scary (if you’re looking for jump scares, look elsewhere).  It’s rare that a horror film lives up to the hype for me (you’re up next, Halloween), and Hereditary did just that – so I left the theater a happy horror camper.  It will divide audiences, because it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (The Witch from a few years back is a good example) – but for me it delivered in every way.  When you can make me feel uneasy the next time I see a group of ants, then you have definitely done your job.

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(5 Out Of 5)

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