Hereditary (Review)

Written by J. Weagle

Going into Hereditary, the debut film from director Ari Aster, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into.  The trailer would have you believe this is a possession film not unlike The Conjuring.  What you get however is a refreshing turn of events and one of the darkest most emotionally staggering horror films to come from a major studio in quite some time.  An interesting horror film that puts emotions and pain above scares and gore, however that’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s fair share of the macabre.

It’s a hard film to explain, and as I mentioned the plot takes a few turns that are not at all indicated or hinted at in the trailer, so to go into details on any of the plot points would simply spoil the fun.  On paper Hereditary is a film about Annie (played by Toni Collette) whose mother passes away and with that, she must unravel the strange and bizarre life and mystery that her mother leaves behind, and how it directly affects her family.  It’s a film that strays away from what you’d expect, at least for the first half, during the later half it becomes a bit more clear where we are ultimately headed and some of the unpredictable fun gets removed.

Toni Collette gives a powerful performance as a mother dealing with grief and the darkness that surround her.  Parts of the film come off as more character study, with her being the only force driving the narrative forward and not once does she drop the ball.  It’s a terrific performance, and will surely go down as one of the finest ever seen in a horror film, sad, chilling and cripplingly tense.  The kind of performance where you can really tell the actor is fearless and believes in the story one hundred percent.  The other actors do a good job as well, with Alex Wolfe as the son perhaps being the weak link, but that is unfair to say considering his role is a complicated one.

If you were to tell me that director Ari Aster was a seasoned, experienced horror master I’d believe you after watching this film.  Like seriously, what a masterfully crafted debut film, and one that leaves me curious as to what he will do next in the horror world.  Scenes are filled with tension, and the films ability to hold off on scares and just breathe are the work of someone with knowledge of the genre and an understanding of patience.  My only negative would be that a few of the “jump scares” don’t work as well as they should, and come off as unnecessary.

So many horror films fail to live up to their hype, and I guess in some ways you could say that this film does as well.  The marketing seems a bit off, with heart rate challenges, and other gimmicks that do not do Hereditary justice.  It’s not going to make you jump out of your seat, and it’s certainly not going to give you a heart attack.  It’s a frightening film no doubt, but not necessarily in the way you think it will be and that’s the beauty of it.  It’s a dark depression punch to the gut, swimming in tragedy, satanism and good old fashion family drama.

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