Ari Aster’s blood-curdling feature film debut is noted as one of the most polarising movies of the 2010s; marked favourably by critics but splitting audiences alike. Hereditary begins with many common tropes, supposedly paving the way for a straightforward horror flick. However, Aster uses this framework to indulge audiences before catapulting them on an unsettling, acutely disturbing rollercoaster that will linger under your skin like scabies.
Toni Collette gives a career performance as Annie Graham, a distressed miniaturist whose family is haunted following the death of her estranged Mother. The Grahams experience increasingly upsetting phenomena which coincide with Annie’s apparent descent into madness. Collette’s harrowing portrayal of a matriarchal figure losing her grip on her family, as well as her grip on the fabric of reality, provides the foundations upon which this film’s bleak and disturbing narrative is told. Despite the unconventionality of Hereditary, Collette’s snub by the Oscars for Best Actress is criminal.
The talented cast depict a household in crisis to perfection. Gabriel Byrne plays the Father, desperate to hold his splintering family together. The children are comprised of a sullen son (Alex Wolff) and reserved daughter (Milly Shapiro), who together make up the remainder of the ill-fated quartet. Despite the family’s escalating concerns and crumbling dynamic, Aster keeps the relationships tenuously connected until the last possible moment, ripping the audience apart with feelings of misplaced and foolish hope. Aside from the horror however, the interconnected labyrinth of subplots are merged flawlessly, with every major character receiving a meticulously developed arc.
This film transcends the horror genre and requires multiple viewings to appreciate the scope and intricate details of Aster’s plot. Colin Stetson’s musical score is borderline unpleasant, keeping the audience in a ceaseless cycle of nerve-shattering suspense and unabated distress. The defining scene left a permanent cerebral scar; a claustrophobic and throat-clutching car sequence involving the two children which unnerves me to this day. This is one of many segments which comprise the unrelenting plot, one that will shatter your psyche to pieces.
Aster’s atypical modus operandi has alreadyyielded two of the most divisive movies of the 2010s; Hereditary and Midsommar. His unique genre fits somewhere between gore-porn, psychological thriller and unholy exorcism. It represents a deep-seated societal flaw that his movies, despite being profoundly disconcerting, are arguably addictive and provide just enough adrenaline to counteract the anxiety they induce.
Dir: Ari Aster
Scr: Ari Aster
Cast: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro; Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne
Prd: Kevin Frakes, Lars Knudsen, Buddy Patrick
DOP: Pawel Pogorzelski
Runtime: 127 minutes