Director: Ari Aster
Starring: Toni Collette, Gabriel Bryne, Alex Wolff, Milly Sharpio, Mallory Bechtel, Ann Dowd
Written by: Ari Aster
Running Time: 127 mins
Release date: 15th June 2018
There is a lot of hype surrounding Hereditary. A huge success on the festival circuit, it comes with accolades that will always set itself for a fall. This horror is going to divide audiences, especially those not use to slow-burning tales of families, subject matters that are familiar with the cinema of the seventies. Is it the scariest film of the year? No, but it will certainly get under your skin.
When the mother of Annie Graham passes away, it affects the family in different ways, particular Annie’s own daughter, the strange and slightly withdrawn Charlie. Then tragedy befalls the family and the secrets of Annie’s mother start to unravel themselves.
First-time feature director Ari Aster takes the story of a slightly dysfunctional family and slowly reveals that all is not what they seem. Just like Annie’s miniature models which she works tirelessly on, this is a claustrophobic world where nothing is what it seems. From the clever opening shot where we are led to believe we are entering a room of one of Annie’s models but it turns out to be something else, you get the impression that this isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill tale of terror.
Instead of rushing events, Aster takes his time, allowing the camera to roam in a way that hasn’t been seen in a modern horror for a while. He also doesn’t play the usual card of jump shocks (although there are the odd occasions). What he does do is build on characters so that when the shocking tragedy happens, it actually affects.
From this moment on, the film starts layering the tension, the events pushing the characters to breaking point until we reach a finale that plays like an Italian Gallo with a slice of the bizarre and unsettling. This isn’t a film that a generation used to psycho-killers and quiet, quiet, loud are going to enjoy.
Comparing it to The Exorcist or The Shining does the film huge injustice. Audiences will go in expecting that level of horror and it will lead to disappointment. Where the film is closest is to Michael Winner’s strange 1976 horror The Sentinel or films like The Legacy with a touch of Dario Argento.
The film’s strong points come in the form of the performances. Gabriel Bryne is quietly understated as the father of the family who tries his best to keep some form of normality after the tragic events and the slow descent into madness that affects the family. Alex Wolff is also impressive as Peter, the son who finds himself struggling to cope with events.
The real star is the always excellent Toni Collette as Annie. This is her crowning glory in a career of impressive roles. As this mother having to deal with her mother’s death as well as the other events, being drawn into a world she doesn’t understand and cannot control, Collette shows the full range of her talents and while it may be easy to go over-the-top, she still enforces sympathy.
Hereditary is flawed and there are places where the film doesn’t always hit the targets but after successions of predictable horrors like Insidious, this is refreshing and creepy for all the right reasons. Some will find it hard going while others will appreciate a talent on the rise in the form of Ari Aster. I, for one, was caught up in the story because, as I have always said, the best horror work when you care about the characters.