Hereditary is a 2018 American supernatural psychological horror drama film written and directed by Ari Aster, in his feature directorial debut. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne as a family haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their secretive grandmother.
Hereditary premiered on January 21, 2018, in the Midnight section at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and was theatrically released in the United States on June 8, 2018. It was acclaimed by critics, with Collette’s performance receiving particular praise, and was a commercial success, making over $79 million on a $10 million budget to become A24’s highest-grossing film worldwide.
Despite the movie’s success and approval from multiple critics, it did not score too well with movie audiences with some saying the movie was “Overhyped, Overlong, Underachieving, Underhanded Nonsense” and another saying “Disappointment has a new name”. The reason I believe this happened was due to the mass marketing of the movie where it was presented as more of a horror movie when in actuality was more of a psychological drama than something akin to ‘Annabelle’.
When I had first watched the trailer, I definitely was not expecting a horror movie like this. It was truly a fresh experience for me as an avid horror movie watcher. The plot is original and the scares was done so well that I honestly was surprised every time a scary scene happened. The thing is with this movie is that there is not a lot of jump scares but rather long scenes with the scare in the background that when you see it, you’re shocked that it was right there and you never noticed in the first place. There are also scenes where the director makes you doubt what you are seeing on the screen and you start debating with yourself whether that happened or did not, and I think that is something amazing to achieve with your audience which is engrossing them so much in the plot that they are able to interpret and digest those scenes from their own perspective.
Other than that, the performances given by the actors were truly spectacular, with high praise to Toni Collette, who I am shocked was not nominated for an Oscar for her truly scene-stealing and heartbreaking portrayal of a grieving mother stuck in an emotionally-broken place looking for redemption. However, the other actors that played alongside her were amazing as well, all of them deserve high praise for their brilliant acting, especially Milly Shapiro who played Charlie, the daughter of the Graham family who managed to play such a strange yet ultimately pitiful character. She managed to shine in all of her scenes and she definitely stole my attention when she first showed up.
Alex Wolff too did an excellent job as Peter, the son of the family. The one major scene he had with Charlie truly left me in extreme shock and fear just as he was feeling as well. As I watched that scene happen, I had the same reaction as Peter, sitting there in shock and disbelief. It took me a while to register what I was seeing and afterwards, I felt this deep unsettling feeling in my gut that left me feeling wretched.
Now I am unsure if this is Ari Aster’s signature quirk but he likes to introduce to the audience new and sometimes, albeit unusual sounds that ultimately, etch themselves into the memory of the audience long after the movie is done. The “klok” sound that Charlie makes is one that all audience members will be sure to remember just as the ‘hoh’ sound that was made in Ari’s next film, Midsommar. I think that is truly one unique method to make your films memorable.
The progression of the plot in the movie too was excellently done with perfect pacing and storytelling. This may have been Ari’s first feature length film but he has already mastered the art of directing and storytelling. This movie has a runtime of 2 hours and 7 minutes but it has never felt lengthy or at any parts boring to me, it has always managed to hook me into every scene and left me totally engrossed. The portrayal too of grief was done so amazingly well with that one major scene leaving me and most definitely audiences around the world in extreme shock and deep-stricken grief. That scene was acted with so much genuine grief that I couldn’t help but instantly want to burst out in tears alongside Toni Collette.
The more freakier scenes towards the end too will definitely stay with me until the end, there were some truly graphic scenes that when I first saw, I did not know whether it was actually happening because there were no sudden loud outbursts of loud sounds or an ominous ‘wide-eyed’ stare from an actor, Ari Aster just delivers the scene to audiences with a brutal straightforwardness, hoping it would jarr them enough with the visuals and in the end, it most definitely did. My mind would always remember a few of those scenes long after I have finished the movie.
Furthermore, there was also this constant sense of helplessness as you watch the Graham family get broken apart from the deep grief they are being haunted by. The son of the family, Peter is helpless as he tries to mend his fragmented relationship with his mother but she is too overwhelmed and too engrossed in her own problems that she snaps with an extremely horrible insult to him. That scene was so raw in emotion and so personal it almost felt as if I was intruding upon a real family having an argument. I actually had to take a breather after that scene ended for it reminded me of past arguments with family members, though not to that extent but it did feel extremely saddening to see that happen to someone.
The helplessness increases towards the end as Annie (Toni Collette) uncovers more and more of her deceased mother’s secrets and as she rushes to try and save her family, things do not go her way at all and we, as the audience who are so deeply engrossed in their plight, have this overwhelming sense of fear and tragedy looming over our heads as we can see where events are going. Truly, I don’t think there were many horror or psychological films that have scarred me and left me with so much dread after the credits start rolling. I will definitely be looking forward to more and more Ari Aster films in the future. And like it says in the title ‘Hereditary’, the fear that I have received from this movie was definitely hereditary from the Graham family itself.