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Review: Hereditary (2018)


Title: Hereditary (2018)

Genre: Horror

Director: Ari Aster

Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, Alex Wolff

Grade: B+

In a Nutshell:

As Hereditary opens, Annie Graham (Toni Collete) has just lost her mother Ellen. Annie’s an acclaimed miniaturist who lives in a giant house in Utah, along with her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and children Charlie (Milly Shapiro) and Peter (Alex Wolff). The family seems like they have it made, but on deeper examination, are already pretty troubled. Charlie is an oddball who likes to click her tongue and decapitate birds, while the continually-stoned Peter hates Annie and never lets her forget it.

Annie’s relationship with her own mother was hardly any better. Growing up, Annie’s father starved himself to death, and her schizophrenic brother also committed suicide, blaming Ellen for “trying to put people inside him.” At Ellen’s funeral, Annie notes that her mother was a quiet, secretive woman, and would most likely have been suspicious about the odd, huge turn-out.

Not long after Ellen’s grave is mysteriously desecrated, the Graham family suffer another personal tragedy. Desperate to keep herself together, Annie goes to a support group, where she makes friends with a woman named Joan (Ann Dowd). When Joan inspires Annie to conduct a seance, the Graham family’s luck takes an even darker turn.

The Critique:

Over the past two weeks or so, anybody interested in horror movies has probably heard a lot of talk about Hereditary. It’s being hailed as one of the scariest movies ever made in some quarters, and dozens of articles have popped up debating and speculating on its ending. (Perhaps the biggest cause of its 56% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Though I’m a bit ambivalent on the ending myself, there’s no denying that Hereditary is a great movie. Rare for a horror movie in this day and age, Hereditary takes its sweet time to unnerve us, not bothering with cheap jump scares or annoying dissonant music. While it might not be a roller coaster ride, there are several very shocking scenes, one of which I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Moreover, I found myself genuinely interested in the characters. As a huge horror fan, I’ll be the first to admit that the genre normally doesn’t excel in character development. Most people drop like flies in these movies, and the monster or antagonist are often more interesting than the protagonists we’re supposed to hope aren’t crushed, mutilated, or eaten. The cast of Hereditary is great, and Toni Collete and Alex Wolff in particular give amazing performances.

For all the praise I have for Hereditary, I do think that the ending could have been better handled. It’s certainly creepy, and there are hints throughout the movie to prepare the viewer, but the twist lessened some of the emotional impact for me. Without trying to explicitly spoil anything, I’ll say the ending slightly spoils the suspension of disbelief, especially with the implications of an important scene involving a symbol-ridden telephone pole.

To Go, to Rent, or to Netflix:

See Hereditary on the big screen and then go out and see it again. (Or, depending on how mad the ending makes you, do a second viewing when it hits Netflix!)

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