Ever since I started writing reviews in 2016, I’ve seen dozens of horror movies. None of them have severely bothered me so much that my sleep that night was severely affected. Hereditary changed that last night.
SITWOL: Annie and her dysfunctional family move on in life after the death of her equally mysterious and dysfunctional mother.
Hereditary is the first feature film for writer and director Ari Aster, and considering just how amazingly meticulous the production quality of this film is, I find that extremely hard to believe. The film’s cinematography, lighting, and sound design are not only the best use of such elements I’ve seen in a horror movie in a long time, but they are currently the best use of such elements in any 2018 film, period. There is so much detail and subtlety in this movie, and it completely absorbed me into the story from start to finish.
There are scenes of people just standing in hallways, contemplating what is happening to them, that were more unsettling than the entirety of many horror movies I’ve seen.
All of the acting in this movie is absolutely fantastic. Toni Collette (Annie) is easily Oscar-worthy to me… provided The Academy does not get tripped up over Hereditary being a horror film. Her performance is raw, complex, and oftentimes heartbreaking. The entire family consists of a bunch of severely dysfunctional beings living almost completely emotionally separated from each other.
One of the things that really impressed me with Hereditary is that even though it is not innocent of using a few common horror tropes, it somehow supersedes that fact with how these tropes are used…
There’s elements in the plot that are brought upon by “stupid decisions”, but instead of Hereditary just making their characters unnaturally stupid to further the plot, they are instead brought forth by the established dysfunction of the characters involved.
Another horror trope I can think of (one that I criticized Truth or Dare for having) is something appearing in the background that the victim doesn’t discover, and is therefore primarily to scare the audience. …You’ll just have to trust me on this when I say that it is used amazingly in this film to the point where it is almost completely forgivable (also, it doesn’t happen very often).
The movie even begins with expository text that attempts to set the scene, and they somehow found a unique way to utilize that.
The film’s soundtrack, while not necessarily original in it’s approached, is utilized extremely effectively.
Also, and I know this is probably a weird compliment to give to a horror movie, but the movie captures the feeling of being in a high school, and the demeanor of high school kids, better than any movie I have ever seen.
There’s a few logical problems that occur in this movie, and some of the horror rules are inconsistent, but considering this movie has a massive psychological element, and the fact that many of these characters are legitimately mentally unstable, it’s extremely hard to figure out where to draw the line with what is considered “characteristically acceptable” and what was considered “too stupid”.
Either way, what Hereditary might’ve “gotten wrong” pales in comparison to what it gets right. Most of what I could complain about are nitpicks anyway, and not necessarily detrimental story elements.
Without trying to spoil anything, the ending might be a bit controversial. I saw this movie with my younger brother, and he said the ending kind of hurt his overall experience. That wasn’t the case for me, but I can see why he felt that way.
This film is amazingly subtle, intelligent, unsettling, and downright disturbing. It’s a completely terrifying ride. It’s a powerhouse of a horror film, and I highly doubt that there will be an experience like this within the next five years, maybe even longer. It’s a fantastic combination of exceptional filmmaking, directing, and writing.
The longer I think about this movie, the more it makes me want to see it again. And especially since there is so much to this movie anyway, I would imagine watching it a second time could only be a more improved experience.