From the very second Hereditary begins, you know that you’re in for something different. A slow zoom into a lifelike dollhouse that shifts into an actual house is acutely aware of itself, you are being pulled in to something unsafe. It’s a visual riptide that is about to pull you out to a very unsympathetic, dark sea.
The story follows the Graham family, who is dealing with the recent loss of the family’s matriarch. Not long after the funeral, the family begins to find that the roots of their ancestry may have some terrifying ties.
Hereditary is a strategic assault on its audience. The Graham family’s home is a heightened reality dollhouse, it constantly feels off kilter with certain furnishings with skewed heights or dimensions creating a small piece of the uncomfortable other worldliness that is already working on your viewing psyche. The sound design is a constant binaural pulse that is played almost throughout the first act of the film. Those two elements together are already subliminally accosting you, before the horror elements have even been introduced.
What really blows my mind is that this is director, Ari Aster’s first feature. This dude must have lived many lives as a director previously cause, he is resolute in his filmmaking. Hereditary is dangerous anxiety inducing filmmaking, Aster creates a new, raw and terrifying path for the horror genre.
The film could exist entirely as a family drama and it would have been absorbing. Aster takes care to make the drama elements work, while gradually introducing the creeping dread. A lot like placing a frog in a pot with the temperature slowly rising, you are already being cooked in a substantial amount of resonating horrific imagery and ideas.
I’m a fan of a lot of A24 horror. Atmospheric genre films like The Witch are my specific cup of tea. Hereditary takes the atmospheric elements and adds gravity to them by delivering on the spectrum of what horror audiences love (yes, even some extremely effective jump scares) creating a film that feels like it could bridge the gap of atmospheric slow burn fans and more mainstream horror audiences.
The imagery cut in in the film seriously gets stuck in your head. I’m still thinking about it now. There is a lot of narrative plays that are really smart about crafting the experience to leave you with not only some seriously fucked up imagery but material you may want to go home and research.
The cast in is pure greatness. Toni Collette and each member of her family take you by the hand down familiar, familial paths before leaving you lost alone and without a compass in the dark family narrative. Collette’s grief and character big reveals work terrifyingly organic and grounded.
“Hereditary is dangerous anxiety inducing filmmaking, Aster creates a new, raw and terrifying path for the horror genre.”
Hereditary is seriously an achievement for horror in every way. It does some unflinching things with the process of grief and family dynamics and then inverts them in an almost perverse way. It’s a mean-spirited movie, its goal is to fuck you up and it entirely worked on me. From where I’m sitting, there is no way that this film doesn’t end up on my top 5 list at the end of the year. This film is dangerous and I can’t wait to experience it again.