Holy s###! That was one of the most unsettling movies I’ve ever seen!
Hereditary, starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Ann Dowd, is the directorial debut from writer/director Ari Aster and the newest film to come out of A24 (my favourite movie distributor at the moment).
After the death of the matriarch of the Graham family, her daughter’s family begin to discover a series of terrifying secrets about their ancestry. It may be a cryptic plot summary but trust me, the less you know about Hereditary the better your viewing experience will be. I also encourage you not to watch the trailer as I personally believe it gives too much away and you’ll be expecting a completely different movie.
First of all, Hereditary isn’t your average horror movie. From the opening shot (which I could tell was heavily inspired by The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, one of my all-time favourite movies), I knew that this was going to be a special kind of horror movie. Hereditary is what I would call an unconventional horror movie. There are elements of horror movies we have seen before, but it flips all the elements and tropes of horror movies on their heads and out of this we get something that is both unsettling and unpredictable. It’s like a mixture of The Witch and The Babadook, but with an even creepier supernatural twist.
Director Ari Aster has crafted one of the most unsettling movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. One scene that occurs pretty early on has been burnt into my mind and it is something I never thought I would see in a movie. It made me so anxious and disturbed that as soon as I saw it, I could feel the emotional stress that surrounds the characters. From that moment I knew I wouldn’t be able to predict what would happen throughout the rest of the movie. This told me how amazing Aster is as a director and from that moment I knew he was born to be a horror director.
This also brings me to the cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski, who also does an amazing job. Each and every shot is articulated in a way that is perfect for the movie. Many shots linger on certain characters or items for a while, which begin to make you feel uneasy and slightly uncomfortable. This cinematography also brings out the dark atmosphere of Hereditary, which made me feel on edge for the entirety of the movie.
With this incredible atmosphere, we also get what could be the best sound design for a movie this year. Hereditary demands you to watch this in the theatre, or at least with headphones, as the sound is something beyond terrifying at times. Sometimes I thought the sounds were coming from within the theatre, not from the movie. This proves how crucial sound design and editing are in a movie. The sound design and editing are pretty much perfect and it’s some of the best sound work in a horror movie I’ve heard in a very long time.
Speaking of almost perfect, the performances in Hereditary are brilliant. Toni Collette gives what is both the best performance of her career and the best performance of 2018. Her performance relies a lot on her delivery and emotions and she is incredible in this role that I can’t really go into detail as it will go well into spoiler territory. There are a few scenes where there is no music and the camera focuses on her, and she has to prove how good of an actress she is by performing with all this emotion. She does an incredible job with this performance and I personally think it will be pretty hard for another actress to top it for the rest of the year.
Another standout performance comes from Alex Wolff, who is basically the protagonist of the movie, yet he isn’t. It’s really hard to explain without spoilers. He does an incredible job of showing the audience what is happening off camera with just his facial expressions. It’s a really hard job to pull off and he excels at doing it. Gabriel Byrne is fantastic as always as the father, and Milly Shapiro is incredible as the young daughter. She did a fantastic job with the role she had, which also proves that child actors are almost, if not as good as normal actors.
The writing is also amazing, but it does lead me to my only negative which has to do with some of the exposition in the movie, particularly in the third act. When you start to unravel the mystery and finally understand what is happening, a character will then explain to another character what it all means and I personally felt like it didn’t need to be in there. An audience should be smart enough to understand what is happening and it’s not that hard to understand the mystery once all the pieces come together.
Another thing I want to talk about is the pacing of the movie, which I can already tell may bore some people. Personally, I loved the slow burn, but for the average movie viewer, it may frustrate them and considering it goes for just over two hours, it may turn some viewers off. But as I said, if you are a massive fan of horror movies and aren’t afraid of a slow burn, you’ll love it.
Overall, Hereditary is one of the best horror movies of the decade. It’s a family drama with a supernatural twist that many of you will love. From the incredible performances, the unsettling atmosphere and the terrific direction from Ari Aster, Hereditary demands you to go in knowing little and that is the best advice I can give for you to get the most out of it. It’s a horror movie like no other and I personally think it’ll go down as a classic of the genre. Also, whoever keeps calling it “this generation’s The Exorcist” please stop.