Ari Aster has created a horror movie that will stay with you long after its credits
From the time it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, critics have been raving about A24’s new artsy and challenging Hereditary. Horror films in the vein of The Witch and It Comes At Night are precisely the breath of fresh air critics seem to want. For the general audience, these types of horror films have been widely rejected. Only movies like The Conjuring or Get Out have managed to capture both the mainstream audience and critics alike. As for Hereditary, it is yet another horror film that will only further divide audience and critics.
Starting as a family drama, Hereditary follows Toni Collette as Annie Graham just days after her “complicated” mother passed away. Milly Shapiro is Charlie Graham, the youngest daughter of the family and Alex Wolff plays Peter Graham, a pothead without much drive in anything he does. Together, they reel from the death of their not-so-lovably matriarch. As the death feels more like a relief, the family seems unable to get back to normal without the controlling and manipulative figure they have come to accept.
I’ll leave the rest for you to discover as Hereditary‘s trailer does its job very well. It is one of the year’s most surprising film with genuinely shocking moments and unpredictable twists. Even the most disturbed viewers will never predict where the film is going nor will they ever even think of the things it shows. However, all these shocks and awes come at a price, it demands your attention and challenges you to engage with it. Director Ari Aster doesn’t spoon feed his audience and nor should we ask him to. His crisp and smooth cinematography demands an active viewing as things are not always so striking at first sight. Shadowy figures lurk in the darkness or in the background and can easily be missed if your eyes aren’t glued to the screen.
However, what can’t be missed is Toni Collette’s Oscar-worthy performance as the film’s unhinged mother. Her performance starts out subtle enough, but before you know it, Collette is swinging between cathartic and batshit crazy. Her bi-polar approach paints a very real portrayal of grief, but it also blurs the line between reality and fiction, making Hereditary such a suspenseful watch.
A24’s horror movies, as of late, have been tapping into our fear of the unknown. The Witch showed our desire and curiosity to indulge in the things not known or taboo to ourselves. It Comes At Night took “the unknown” as a story device by knowingly withdrawing certain information from the audience. Hereditary fully rejects the idea that fear comes from the unknown, instead, it offers a new and surprising idea: fear comes from certainty. If fate really dictates our lives, then we are but hopeless pawns in the sadistic game we call life. Our common and rather optimistic belief that we are the sole controlling figure in our life is completely demolished, and it’s truly terrifying.
But just like The Witch and It Comes At Night, not everyone will find Hereditary scary or suspenseful. In fact, it will be the latest A24 horror film to completely alienate its mainstream viewers. Ari Aster has created a film that will reward it’s most patient and active watchers but will certainly lose many of its Blumhouse-loving viewers looking for a scary date night horror flick a la Truth Or Dare. The latter will most likely laugh, while the other will be wishing they never left the house.
Hereditary is now in theatres.