REVIEW: ‘Hereditary’ is top notch horror

Even if you walk into “Hereditary” thinking you’re prepared for what you see, chances are, you aren’t.

The film, a first-time feature length picture from Director Ari Aster, tells the story of the Graham family, particularly the mother, Annie (Toni Collette). The movie opens on the day of the funeral for Annie’s mother. From the start, it’s not only evident that Annie had an estranged relationship with her mother, but that there are also some dysfunctions with the rest of her family as well.

As the film moves on, the family is met with a traumatic event that triggers terrifying situations.

“Hereditary” is not just a horror film, but a drama as well, a very intense, disturbing drama, for that matter. For a majority of the picture, “Hereditary” not only features sequences with scary imagery, but moments of the lead characters dealing with extreme, difficult grief. Clocking in at around two hours, it dedicates a lot of time to these aspects, making for a well developed, slow burning thriller.

It’s also noteworthy that it’s difficult to tell what exactly is going to happen next. While there are a few moments here and there that feel familiar or predictable, there are a ton more that are genuinely shocking and unexpected. This movie will catch a viewer off guard in plenty of scenes, raising questions that an audience desperately wants answers for.

This is especially true because the film plays on expectations. There are many elements here that have similarities to other horror pictures, such as ghostly hauntings, but when you think you have it figured out, the movie strays in a bit of a different direction.

“Hereditary,” like other great horror films, is very real and straightforward in its approach. This isn’t one of those horrors that are just out to give you a jump and entertain, it’s more in the vein of “The Shining,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Sixth Sense.” “Hereditary” relates to these films because it explores family dynamics, as well as mental health subject matter, and the impact a horrific situation can have on them.

A lot of credit has to go to Collette and the actor playing her son, Peter (Alex Wolff). These two really sell what’s going on, their reactions to their surroundings and the portrayal of their characters’ mental states are quite believable. The performances make for truly an immersive experience.

One of the portrayals somewhat less convincing, though, is that of Gabriel Byrne, playing Annie’s wife Steve. This was mainly because his American accent wavered in the movie and it was a bit jarring at times. Not to say he was a major problem, but his delivery wasn’t on the level of some of the others here.

Another aspect weakening the film was the ending, which didn’t seem to have as much to say as I would’ve hoped, considering the direction the movie was going in. It’s certainly freaky, and the imagery is effective in the moment, but it didn’t seem to linger, at least not for me.

With that said, “Hereditary” is still largely a good film, partly thanks to some awesome cinematography. There are a plethora of unique angles featured, making the experience otherworldly and offsetting.

Another important aspect is in how it relates to the lead character Annie. In the film Annie is a miniatures artist, with miniature houses all across her workshop. The filmmakers incorporate this into some great transitional moments, especially with some well made zoom-ins. Additionally, there are some scenes where the movie is shot from an angle that makes it appear that the audience is looking into a miniature house, resulting in the main characters coming across as even less in control of the situation.

“Hereditary” is a great entry into the horror genre, but didn’t reach a perfect level, at least not in this review. 4.5 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

My name is Matthew Liedke. I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, but I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I now write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead where I studied journalism and film. Outside of film, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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