Every once in a while, we see advertising for horror films that claim them to be as great as the classics such as “Rosemary’s Baby” or ‘Psycho”. That usually results in eye rolls, but here with Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” the critical acclaim is not messing around.
Toni Collette plays Annie, an avid dollhouse maker whose reclusive and bizarre mother passes away. Annie lives with her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), her son Peter (Alex Wolff) and her tongue-clicking daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). After a terrifying incident, they then begin to experience the supernatural as their family history is slowly and terrifyingly revealed to them through pain, suffering and terror. The film is as terrifying as it sounds, if not more so. “Hereditary” is one of the most frightening experiences one can have in the theater and will most likely be remembered as a classic, much like how people remember Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” or Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby”.
“Hereditary” is writer/director Ari Aster’s debut film. Given that, he will most likely become a well-renowned filmmaker in the future. The unique visual style and camerawork are incredibly unique, giving the film the eerie unnerving feel that Ari Aster was going for. However, what brings to film to its ultimate ability to terrifying audiences, is its imagery and sounds. It’s almost as though the film is assaulting the senses by throwing disturbing imagery and noises as you from left to right. This includes maggots eating a dead body, people on fire, decapitated heads, and disturbing images of faces in the dark corners of a room smiling at you. This is one of the rare horror films that will actually scare pretty much everyone that watches it. Its spine-chilling, unnerving and yet somehow delightfully fun.
It would be a travesty to go on without mentioning the performances. Every performance on screen is done to perfection, due to both the talents of the director and the actors themselves. However, the one performance that clearly stands out here is Toni Collette. Her character has multiple layers and as an audience it is impossible not to find ourselves constantly questioning her sanity and motives. This curve is conveyed perfectly by Collette. Every great film has “that one scene” in which the performance shines in its very best moment. “Hereditary” has that as well, and when you see it, you’ll know. This is without a doubt her best role yet up there with her Oscar nominated role in “The Sixth Sense”. This too should give her some Oscar recognition, but only time will tell if the Academy will make the right choice.
The film is incredibly symbolic in its meaning as well. Just as “Rosemary’s Baby” represents the fears of being a mother, or as “The Shining” represents the psychological effects of being anti-social, “Hereditary” is too very symbolic as it shows the fears of acquiring traits or characteristics of ancestors that we don’t desire to obtain. In addition to that, the film is also about mental illness and family tragedy turning into a nightmare, as going through family tragedy and grief can often feel like a nightmare itself. There are many ways to interpret the film, none of which are wrong. However, it’s the meaning behind the film that makes it so chilling as it digs into everyday human fears and emotions. Rather than just a jump-scare ghost story, the film makes viewers feel something they most likely haven’t before.
Rated R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity