Hereditary is the debut feature film of director Ari Aster and what a debut it is.
This is a great slow burn horror about a grieving family, dealing with the loss of their grandmother and the series of unusual or creepy events that unfolds, building to a superb climax that is scary, tense and fascinating.
This isn’t your typical supernatural horror sloppily put together and packed with jump scares, this is a much more refined, atmospheric and steadily paced venture. The horror is minimised, giving short bursts of creepy and unsettling moments throughout before fully unleashing its terror towards the end.
It a holds onto a deep uneasy atmosphere throughout thanks in part to a terrific soundscape full of little eerie sounds and noises as well a good ominous score. It is also helped kept by the way it is fantastically filmed and edited. The cinematography is excellent, the opening and end shots themselves are magnificent but the rest of the film is visually pleasing throughout with a good use of low lighting and shadows as well some great wide shots and long takes.
There are numerous times where the way a scene is crafted makes you think that something scary is about to occur but then doesn’t follow through with it, successfully keeping the viewer on edge and creating a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen. These in some ways make the actual moments of horror much more effective and the film definitely has a few surprises up its sleeve that make it all the more engaging.
But the film is more than just a horror, it has quite a strong dramatic core too. The family in this are grieving but also struggling in their relationships with each other and it gives this film a bit of depth and realism that really elevates it with and provides a couple of the best scenes in the film that aren’t horror related.
This is really achieved by some superb acting. Toni Collete in particular who plays the mother ‘Annie’ is excellent and really nails the portrayal of a woman that is struggling mentally and emotionally with all that is going on around her and the rest of the cast which features Gabriel as the Dad, Alex Wolf as the son and Milly Shapiro in her first on-screen role as the daughter are all very good too.
Now there is an interpretive element to the film as it doesn’t explain everything which may leave quite a few people baffled and the steady pacing might also be a little off putting too. This is a 127 minute movie so it’s certainly not a breeze and you’ve really got to buy into the characters and the drama to get into it. In my screening I had two people walk out just over halfway through, so I can understand this not working for everyone.
But this is still an incredibly well crafted horror film that I can easily admire and appreciate. I would highly recommend it to all fans of horror, as amongst the ghastly stream of movies filled with ghosts and spirits, this one definitely stands out and is one of the best. A strange, frightening and all around compelling experience and if this is what director, Ari Aster is capable of with his first feature film then I am very excited to see what he does next.
OVERALL: 8.5/10 – GREAT
Reviewed by Eric Hart (Blazinhart).