It’s a rarity for a horror movie to steer clear from cheap scares to rely more on atmosphere and character’s suffering. Hereditary has been getting unanimous praise ever since its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival; going as far as calling it the scariest movie since The Exorcist. Whenever A24 distributes a horror movie, it gets wide release so audiences nationwide can get their socks scared off them. It’s almost as if I went on a roller-coaster ride from hell; mixing the supernatural with real family drama.
The movie centers on the Graham family. After the matriarch Ellen passes away, they begin to witness strange occurrences around them. Mother Annie (Toni Collette) works at home as an artist making miniatures and dollhouses resembling events within the family. While husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne, one of The Usual Suspects), eldest son Peter (Alex Wolff), and young daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) cope with the tragedy with her, they soon find out everything is spiraling out of control. The secrets about their ancestry come to life. If I continue talking about the movie, it will ruin the surprise.
In his directorial debut, writer/director Ari Aster has crafted something brilliant. A slow-burning, old-school freak-fest containing some terrifying imagery, kudos to his smooth direction and creepy saxophone music by Colin Stetson. It’s almost as if the Graham house is a character itself. It’s obvious there is something in the house that rubs you the wrong way. Once the mystery slowly begins to unravel, it makes perfect sense on what’s going on.
Collette leads a terrific cast as the mother whose perfect life is ruined by family tragedy. She begins to get support of her grief and explains her disturbing family history. One night, she meets up with old friend Joan (Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale), who teaches her how to communicate with the dead. Once she starts doing the craft, she wants to prove her husband that she isn’t insane and to give in once and for all. This is one of the best performances in any horror movie.
Shapiro makes an impressive acting debut as the teenage daughter, who might be on the autism spectrum. While she rarely talks, she makes a habit of clicking her tongue (which is going to be stuck in everyone’s heads for years to come).
I don’t think everyone will be impressed by Hereditary. My suggestion: the little you know about the movie before going in, the better. This is one of the most terrifying horror movies of the 21st century.
I also want to share something exciting. I saw author Stephen King went to the same screening I went to last night. At first, I thought to myself, “This couldn’t be him.” Once I heard his voice, I almost lost it. I did have the special opportunity to talk with him for about a minute after the movie was over. We shook hands and I told him I was a big fan of his work. When I asked him what he thought of this movie, he said it was great.