Director Ari Aster’s feature debut, Hereditary, had its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival with additional screenings at the 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals. Starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd with distribution by A24, I can honestly say that Hereditary is absolutely terrifying.
Following the Graham family after the passing of their grandmother, mom Annie (Toni Collette) struggles with grief as she focuses on her hobby/career of making miniature scenes taken from real life events. Her daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), was exceptionally close to her grandmother and deals in unhealthy ways while the rest of the family, dad Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and son Peter (Alex Wolff) drown it out a bit. However, after another family tragedy takes place, this one as shocking as they come, the entire family spirals into a series of insane events and doesn’t let up. To say that moments of Hereditary were “intense” would be an understatement.
Toni Collette brought everything she had to her performance and succeeded in making me feel the grief, hopelessness, depression, and horror that Annie experienced over the course of the two-hour run time. Milly Shapiro was one of the most unnerving kids I’ve seen in a horror film in years. She was so subtle, especially when compared to the rest of the performances, but was highly effective in creeping me the hell out. I was absolutely in awe of Shapiro in every scene. Coming off as a typical stoner who loathes his existence at first, Alex Wolff’s Peter has the biggest character transformation throughout the film and pulls it off effortlessly. While Gabriel Byrne had more of a supportive role next to Collette, he acts as a sort of glue that is attempting to hold things together in his quickly fading family.
The original music, composed by saxophonist Colin Stetson, who has collaborated with many acts including Arcade Fire and Tom Waits, will strike a nerve and keep a bit of sweat on your brow in anticipation of what’s to come. There is also a specific noise that I won’t elaborate on here for the sake of being spoiler-free, which haunted my dreams for days.
Ari Aster said during the Q&A that he drew inspiration from several Japanese ghost films, even having the cast watch some of them. While he didn’t mention it specifically, I believe there was a nod to 1999’s Audition in a scene that is forever embedded in my brain. Aster made sure that audiences know that this is indeed a very personal film by how much craftsmanship and detail went into every scene and the entire set, which was built just for the film in Utah.
While Hereditary features quite a bit of family drama, there is no denying that the film is straight up heart-pounding horror. It mixes psychological terror with haunting visuals and takes you on an insane ride. It is set for release on June 8th from A24, and obviously I can’t recommend seeing this enough. After all, I am already anxiously awaiting a second viewing.
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