Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie review of "Hereditary” by Emily Maier

As someone who isn’t a big fan of horror, I was initially wary about going to see “Hereditary” in theaters. I certainly didn’t expect it to be one of my favorite movies of the year, but this movie surprised me in more ways than one.

At the core of “Hereditary” is the Graham family: Annie, Steve, and their two children, Peter and Charlie. The film opens with the funeral of Annie’s mother, a secretive woman whose actions were steeped in mental illness and dysfunctional tendencies. Charlie takes the recent death of her grandmother especially hard, exhibiting behavior ranging from odd to downright disturbing. As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that the secrets being held from the Graham family are far more sinister than they ever could have imagined.

It’s difficult to reveal much more without spoiling the plot. While I enjoyed the film most when it was functioning as an analysis of grief and familial trauma, I also enjoyed the supernatural turn that it took.  

Toni Collette gives a truly Oscar-worthy performance as Annie. Whether she was depicting unbridled grief, fury, or mania, she did it with incredible mastery and authenticity. Alex Wolff did an amazing job as the frequently traumatized Peter as well. Though his crying left something to be desired – especially considering he had to do it a lot – he still handles some of the movie’s most intense scenes admirably.

The cast gave everything they had in this movie, and their portrayal of raw emotion is what makes “Hereditary” really stand out. Whether it’s overwhelming grief, guilt, rage, or terror, the film captures it all with an unflinching gaze. It refuses to let up, no matter how much the audience squirms. While watching “Hereditary”, I had the unique experience of suddenly feeling like I was not watching a movie but intruding upon someone’s life during a tragedy. This is not only a testament to the cast’s skill but something that made the movie much more spine-chilling.

I was surprised to learn that the film is the directorial debut of Ari Aster, who directed and wrote the script. It’s an incredibly strong start for the budding director, and I’ll be patiently awaiting his future work. In less surprising news, “Hereditary” is the newest film produced by A24, the same company that has brought us renowned films such as “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird,” “The Witch,” “Ex Machina,” and “Room.”

While a majority of “Hereditary” wasn’t as scary as I’d anticipated, I should note that I spent the last twenty minutes of the movie absolutely terrified. Instead of relying on traditional jump-scares, “Hereditary” uses subtle horror: things you don’t notice at first, or the things suggested but not seen. There are also a few truly graphic scenes throughout the movie that may be permanently burned into my retinas. Though not the typical horror movie, “Hereditary” is – above all – not for the faint of heart.

While “Hereditary” is by no means a perfect movie, the care both the cast and crew held for the movie is evident in every scene. I was mesmerized by the realistic acting, bold storytelling, and the unique way in which the film was shot. Keeping in mind the graphic bloodshed and the heart-wrenching plot, I’d recommend “Hereditary” to anyone who thinks they can stomach it.

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