Film Review: Hereditary

A Truly Remarkable Horror Movie

High quality film-making from top to bottom sets this film apart from the rest of the genre. I thought it was extremely effective on a lot of levels, playing with audience expectations right up to the very end. Is it hallucination or are there supernatural forces at work? You are kept guessing until the final moments. I think it is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in years and it would have been on my top ten list for best of 2018 if I’d seen it when it came out. It’s nothing short of brilliant.

Toni Collette stars as Annie, an artist who builds miniature houses and recreations of events. She is married and has two children and the film opens with the funeral of her mother which causes friction in a family we come to realize is already somewhat dysfunctional. A family tragedy follows close on the heels of the funeral and the family is plunged into further disarray with hints of either madness or supernatural powers working on the family to some sinister end.

I thought the film was instantly remarkable for the power of its images. Writer/director Ari Aster uses some very interesting camera moves and angles to draw you in and make you feel unsettled. The story unfolds at a nice, slow-building pace which gets very frantic toward the end. The production design is great, making the film feel totally authentic and rooted in reality but also allowing for this other-worldliness that pervades everything. It also managed to surprise and stun me with some of its imagery and ideas.

The cast was marvelous and really made the film feel real. I especially liked how Gabriel Byrne’s performance as Steve, the beleaguered husband trying to hold the family together through two close tragedies, anchored the film in an authenticity that made the situation believable. Alex Wolff also deserves special mention as Peter, the older child who goes through some incredibly dark stuff. Toni Collette really carries the film and gives one of the most intense performances I’ve ever seen her in. She really is amazing.

Hereditary is a truly remarkable horror movie. It is top-notch film-making in every department with talented people delivering great work and it shows on screen. Not only is the script really sharp, the telling of the story by camera, production design and performance operating at such a high level of quality makes this a great movie, regardless of genre. A must-see.