RATING: 5 OUTTA 5!
Horror especially is a genre where cinematography choices and plot can become overly tropey. Particularly supernatural horror, a lot of bad movies in this subgenre seemingly assume that as long as there is a ghost or a demon, or someone with solid black eyes that their movie will be a winner. I mean, Horror is absolutely just scary imagery, right? Wrong. A great horror movie doesn’t scare you from afar via jump scare tactics. Rather, it pulls you in as hauntingly close as possible before the unnerving reveal, and subsequent kill. That’s everything that Hereditary is about.
Hereditary opens with a funeral for Ellen Graham, Annie’s mother. Annie (played by Toni Collete) somberly speaks at her mother’s funeral, noting how private a life Ellen lived pointing out several unfamiliar faces in attendance, all the while in the pews her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) distractedly scribbles somewhat horrific drawings of crying women and other disturbing imagery.
Later that evening, Annie, who is a miniature artist preparing for an art gallery show, is working on a diorama- a ghostly vision of Ellen appears in the shadowy corner of the studio workroom, and then disappears. Annie is left visibly shocked. And this where Hereditary begins its slow descension into an unsettling, horrific tale of family secrets and fate.
One of the tactics that makes Hereditary so great is how relatable it makes grief. Annie’s grief is something we all can relate to- the guilt over the unsteady relationship with her mother- the anger, the depression...we feel for Toni’s character so much, she becomes that acquaintance who’s suffered such major loss that you wanna do more for her, but can’t..and just have to watch uncomfortably from afar. Hereditary capitalizes on *that* feeling, on that sensation. The unnerving death of Charlie and Peter’s handling of the situation, one of the most unsettling scenes in recent movie history for me.
Toni Collette is the MVP of Hereditary- her descension into madness - paired up with the family history her character Annie gives us about their collective, tragic battles with mental disease has you wondering whether what’s happening on screen is actual supernatural activity or purely Annie Graham’s hallucinations. The intermittent use of disturbing and mysterious imagery leading up to the final act such as Charlie’s vision of Ellen, or the weird scribblings that resemble English seen throughout the Graham house, is masterful- and has you guessing the answers to a mystery you didn’t know needed to be solved.
And that final act? Goddamn. This isn’t cliche black-eyed possessed people, or shitty trap house music with grudgy filters on some half-assed ghost type. This is *real* horror. So much of that last act is left unanswered….but only to questions that in our hearts, we don’t really want the answer to. And still somehow, very satisfyingly disturbing.
Hereditary is a Horror Classic in the making. Prepare to hear about this movie for the next few decades along with The Exorcist (1973) and other greats with the same if not more fervor and excitement. Take someone close, gather your bravery...and see this in theaters.