Hereditary is A24’s latest film to release on Blu Ray and digital, and I’ve finally had a chance to watch it for myself. It’s rare nowadays to get an above average modern horror movie, but to get two in one year is beyond me. A Quiet Place is the first, and Hereditary being the second, and a supernatural nonetheless. It’s written and directed by Ari Aster, a first time director, which is insane because of how good Hereditary is. The camera work and patience in this movie is magnificent and plays on the story as well. The transition shots between real life and Annie’s miniatures flow so well. And in the middle of all this, we have four actors who crush it the entire movie. Toni Collette should win an Oscar for this performance. Almost the whole film is on her shoulders, and she nails until the credits. Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, and Milly Sharpio along with Collette vibe so well together you think they’re an actual family going through these tragedies. Now if you’ve seen it, you know I really can’t talk about the nitty-gritty unless I start spoiling. So…
I believe the main reason why Hereditary blew me away personally, is how smart it is without being pretentious. Don’t get me wrong, it’s artsy, but still, a supernatural horror filled with creepy imagery and haunting metaphors that ultimately destroy this family. And in the end, the ultimate antagonist is a cult. I don’t want to hear any BS that the ending is ambiguous with everything being in Annie and Peter’s head. Not only does the movie itself provide you with these answers, but Aster himself also said in an interview the ending actually happened. Annies’ mother basically sold her bloodline to a demon named Paimon, which is a “real” demon that the movie didn’t makeup. This is a premise we have seen before, but it’s done it such a fresh and frightening way. It’s like a hybrid of Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining, part of the movie being a family member sold their family to evil, and the other a journey of characters’ mental states being slowly deteriorated by a malevolent presence. Now before you bring out your pitchforks, I’m not trying to say it’s as great as those classics. I’m just saying it has the tone and spirit as them.
This movie is a slow burn sure but definitely hits you in the gut with the aggressive ending and revelations showed. Almost anything and everything that has been showed up until the end where Paimon finally gets the male host he wants was for something. Aster used his frames wisely. Whether it’s the quick shots of cult members at Ellen’s funeral and Annie’s support meeting or Paimon’s emblem on the very telephone pole that decapitates Charlie. Nothing happens accidentally. Even the shot of their mail slot with a flyer being pushed into it trying to draw Annie to the support group in retrospect is creepy. The mail was already there, implying one of the cult members were pushing that in, cementing that this family’s fate was by design.
Let’s focus on the not so hidden aspects of this movie that make it so good. There’s really no jump scares. You may be able to count the part in the end where Annie is in the corner and jumps out at Peter, but I argue you already saw her there as did Peter. That’s impressive for a 2018 horror movie. Also, you genuinely care for these characters. They aren’t some random teenagers you know nothing about getting stalked by an unknown presence. Apart from Charlie, they’re pretty normal. But all of their lives are turned upside down by loss, grief, and ultimately evil. And the movie earns that. And while a majority of this movie is a drama and slow, the high gears turned on, in the end, is excellent. The slow-moving shots of Annie creeping into frame not moving are creepy as hell. You just want to scream at Peter saying “Look up!” Also, Annie slamming her head against the attic door as Peter begs his “Mommy” to stop, all the while cult members nakedly staring in the dark corner. That’s the kind of stuff that makes you tense in a horror movie. Not twenty-five jump scares of a nun. Wink Wink.
In the end, Hereditary will most likely get lost in the shuffle of modern horror movies. But I really hope not. This seems like a modern classic to me and will definitely be going on my Blue Ray shelf. I know a lot of people went into this one thinking it was a shut your brain off scary movie and that’s what discouraged them. I’ve been guilty of not being in the right mindset for a specific type of film. But with the smart story, beautiful cinematography, and killer performances, Heredity deserves all the praise it gets and spot on any horror fan’s movie shelf.