After the death of her estranged mother, Annie and her family start seeing strange things happen around the house. Is it the spirit of her mother, or something more sinister? Annie is dedicated to getting to the bottom of what’s happening and why her family is getting torn apart.
Hereditary is an exceptional slow burn film, part family drama, part psychological horror, with some subtle nods to every horror sub-genre in between. The tension doesn’t let up from the funeral of Annie’s mother until the credits roll and due to the slow burn, that can sometimes become exhausting. All credit to Ari Aster, whom wrote and directed the film, as keeping the audience hooked and tense throughout a 2 hour film is incredibly difficult but he managed it with ease.
The film is shot beautifully, the camera often in one place as the scene moves around it, some great ominous shots that always increased the sense of dread and fear. The fact that so much of the film was practical was also very impressive and just made it feel all the more real in the film. One technique that Aster used was a personal favourite, where the camera seems to move through walls and floors to show what is happening in a smooth continuous motion. It is especially effective during one of the final scenes in the film, that is terrifying, and the use of that effect definitely added to the horror of the situation.
Toni Collette is an absolute power house, probably the best acting performance in a horror film, rivalling Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and upon multiple viewings, could definitely surpass Nicholson’s performance with ease. The raw emotion, heartbreak and grit Collette showed throughout the film is breathtaking, not once did it seem forced or like she was acting. She simply was Annie and she absolutely killed it.
A special mention also goes to Alex Wolfe, who plays Annie’s son, Peter. He was great, by far the best actor in the film, behind Toni Collette. He held his own in some powerful scenes acting opposite her and surprisingly showed a wide range of emotions and, especially during the final act, was astounding and heart-wrenchingly believable. His eyes are especially good at showing pain and fear, such a great casting choice, a very memorable character in a sea of horror film children.
Hereditary is quite complicated for a horror film, filled with some twists and an interesting narrative structure that will take more than one viewing to comprehend and appreciate just how much work was put into this film. Occasionally though, the slow burn was a little too slow and could have been tightened just a little to reduce the run time, because with the whole film making the audience so tense, it is exhausting to finally get to the end of the film, people can only hold their breath for so long!
The final scene is perfect, the final revelation, the realisation of what this whole experience has been about. Absolutely amazing writing on behalf of Ari Aster, definitely one of the strongest debuts for a director in many many years.
Hereditary is unsettling throughout with a slow build up to a huge release at the end. It’s terrifying and complex with so much attention to detail it rightfully deserves comparisons to The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby.