Hereditary – Film Review by Fran Winston
Director: Ari Aster
Writer: Ari Aster
Stars: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne
Horror is a tricky genre to get right. There’s a very fine line between chills and cheese. However, this has been lauded as this generation’s “The Exorcist” which is high praise indeed for writer-director Aster. Especially for a feature debut.
Starring the always reliable Toni Collette and our own Gabriel Byrne this opens with an obituary on screen. This sets out the stall from the off as Annie (Collette) and her family deal with the aftermath of her mother’s death. When Annie finds a cryptic message from her mother hidden in a book she more or less dismisses it. That is until a second tragedy strikes the family and they begin to realise that her mother has left her a dark legacy.
Aster builds the tension slowly and other than one of the most unsettlingly gruesome death scenes you will ever witness there is little in the way of gore and ghouls until the very end. Rather the horror is very old school – that bump in the night or creak of the door or the apparition in the corner of your eye. This is aided by a suitably atmospheric soundtrack and thoughtful cinematography that captures every creepy shadow. Also Collette’s character is a miniatures artist and her work alone is enough to creep out even the most hardened horror fan.
The dialogue is weak and silly in places but the cast manages to make it believable. Collette, in particular, is amazing and I found myself wondering why she hasn’t actually won an Oscar yet. Byrne is suitably stoic as her sceptical husband Stephen while Wolff is surprisingly good as their tortured and haunted teenage son Peter. I say surprisingly because this is quite a departure from the usually frothy teen fare he is known for.
This wasn’t what I expected at all. Despite the comparisons to The Exorcist I personally found this more akin to The Omen or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s extremely arty and wears its horror influences on its sleeve but it’s also extremely creepy. It is somewhat let down by a slightly silly climax but it is strong enough throughout to forgive this. In an age of CGI and effects it manages to sidestep the tired clichés for its scares which is quite refreshing. And the chills will resonate with you long after this ends. Indeed the family drama is as disturbing as the horror in this movie.