Describing the plot of Hereditary is a futile exercise for two reasons: 1) You don't want me to ruin a single minute of this film. And 2) my interpretation may be much different from what you see. The story opens with text from the obituary of Ellen, mother of Annie Graham (Collette). They did not always get along and what she has left a family that is shrouded in a dark depression. Her therapist husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), and eldest son Peter (Alex Wolff) all walk with a look of dread on their faces. Annie has had a history of grief. She seeks solace in her loss at support groups, but what is left are memories that haunt her, a fractured relationship with son Peter, and Charlie might have her own demons. She is a quiet loner, draws morbid pictures, and makes creepy clicking noises with her mouth. Is she disturbed too? Or is it possible that something more is at hand? Something sinister, lurking in this families genetics.
Similar to recent horror films, such as It Comes At Night, The Babadook, The Witch, It Follows, or The Blackcoat's Daughter, this is a film made by an artist first, and the scares will fall into place. The script, written by Aster, is paired perfectly with cinematography by Pawel Porgozelski, and a haunting score from Colin Stetson. These aspects uniquely comes together into a tightly wound ball of stress. The only release that Annie has is when she retreats to her office where she builds miniatures of their home, crafting scenes that have an eerie way of becoming a reality.
Annie develops a friendship at the support group with a woman named Joan (Ann Dowd). She introduces Annie to the power of a séance and although, Annie may not believe, something might have been awaken. Her mothers ghost? What follows after is a series of events that sends chills down your spine. Aster digs deeper into the complex subject of a family drama. There are intense themes about motherhood, dealing with depression, and the pressures of being expected to be a provider. I gathered a message that the stains of our family past leak up to the surface, infecting us with a toxic cycle. In various scenes, such as a family dinner, which becomes a centerpiece for an already creepy film, proving that some of the true horrors can come from those who are supposed to protect us.
Now, I may not have mentioned enough how amazing Collette is in Hereditary. This is entirely her show. It is a nuanced, multi-layered performance that should surely earn The Sixth Sense actor her second Oscar nomination. This is not an easy performance either. With just a twitch of her eyes, a movement of her hand, or a sharp-pointed response, she strikes fear in the pit of our stomachs. Her work is similar to that of James McAvoy's in Split, but without the gimmicks of multiple personalities to play with. This is a calculated, well displayed performance, that not only highlights her fantastic work, but says something about director Ari Aster. These two are magnificent together. I'm not exactly sure how they can top this? Hereditary is the scariest movie of the last 10 years and that my friends, says a lot.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: TONI COLLETTE; GABRIEL BYRNE; ALEX WOLFF; ANN DOWD; MILLY SHAPIRO
DIRECTED BY: ARI ASTER
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It is imperative that you remember to retain oxygen while watching Hereditary. That's what happened to me. I had a moment where my body was clenched, hands gripping into the arm rests, and holding my breath, watching this fantastic new horror film from director Ari Aster. This is that kind of movie. Hereditary will scare you in a few moments and will mess with you psychologically. Much like Steven Soderberg's Unsane from earlier this year, what separates Hereditary from other horror films is a myriad of reasons, including the ability to distort reality in front of our very eyes. It also includes a tour-de-force performance from Toni Collette, boosted by the brilliantly original screenplay from first-time director Aster. Don't hide from this one, because you can't get away from the fact that Hereditary is a beautifully messed up movie.