As a fan of horror films, you have to sit through an awful amount of disappointment before you find something special. Thankfully this is very much the case for Ari Aster’s feature film debut, Hereditary. This is a film that possesses the ability to give you goosebumps, make your blood run cold and genuinely provide a completely unnerving, unforgettable experience.
Before I really get going, please note that this is the real deal. If you have yet to see this film, stop reading as you will want to go into this as cold as possible, with a packed audience for a more rewarding experience.
To set the scene, following the death of their reclusive grandmother, the Graham family has started to unravel. Even after she is gone, her absence has cast a dark shadow over the family, especially her loner teenage granddaughter, Charlie, whom she had an unusual fascination with. As the family begins to discover cryptic sinister secrets about their unfortunate inheritance, an overwhelming terror begins to take over their lives.
Hereditary is a film that impresses from the outset. This is a film that looks at how family dynamics change in the wake of grief along with an unnerving tale of supernatural and psychological horror. It manages to deftly combine these complex themes with an examination of mental illness, the occult and possession to deliver an incredibly harrowing and unsettling film. It is a slow burn, which means it demands an attentive and patient audience as the priority is given to an intense atmosphere rather than cheap, unearned, jump scares.
Featuring an impressive cast that includes Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd and Milly Chapiro, the film delivers compelling performances across the board. However, it is Collette’s outstanding performance that will stay with you and more than likely haunt your dreams.
This is a film that manages to exercise so much restraint and elegance whilst packing an unbelievable, dread inducing fear factor. By effortlessly going through the gears, taking the time to set the scene and flesh out the characters, Ari Aster delivers a masterclass in escalating tension, tonal shifting and horror. It should also be noted that the use and design of sound in this film is every bit as integral to its success in setting the eerie mood.
Hereditary evokes horror classics such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Wicker Man, which is high praise, but Aster has created a film that is able to stand up to these comparisons with its head held high. This is a nightmarish experience full of compelling performances and a real atmospheric intensity. What it lacks in outright scares it more than makes up for with a horrifying sense of impending doom which will have you holding your breath and watching the disturbing visuals through your fingers. Hereditary is a genuinely terrifying and unsettling film with all the makings of a future horror classic which is sure to leave a lasting impression long after the lights have come up.