By: Billy Cross
Ari Aster’s debut feature follows in the footsteps of The Witch and The Babadook in a welcomed trend of modern horror films that build tension through the emotional disintegration of the family. Gone are the jump scares and cheap thrills. Hereditary is a supernatural spookfest here to brutalize on a psychological level. Yet, when you least expect it, the film goes off the rails in all the best ways.
It opens with Annie Graham’s (Toni Collette) candid eulogy of her recently passed mother. She describes her mother’s “secret friends and secret rituals” in cold, passive-aggressive jabs. Already, you can tell things are not quite right. Annie’s younger daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), broods and scribbles in her notebook. Her oldest, Peter (Alex Wolff) drifts through high school getting stoned. As the Graham family copes with the loss of their matriarch, unnatural forces begin to move in.
One of the stranger things in Hereditary that becomes apparent quickly is Annie’s meticulous work building miniatures – little dioramas that depict key moments in her life. Even the traumatic ones. It’s no accident that her actual home evokes a doll house. Aster shoots many scenes flat, in profile, to look as though they belong in Annie’s art gallery. Hell, the opening shot pushes into a miniature of Peter’s room blending
seamlessly into his actual room, suggesting that everything, in fact, may be a constructed reality of Annie’s inner demons. That oppressive feeling of being boxed in with no escape is the driving force behind much of the film’s tension, eventually erupting into hellish circumstances.
Hereditary continues the streak of engaging small-budget horror films revitalizing the genre with not only genuinely disturbing images, but shattering drama to boot. Accompanied by Colin Stetson’s droning, propulsive soundtrack and clever sound design, this film has plenty of creepy vibes to keep you awake all night.
Production Company: PalmStar Media