Movie Review: Hereditary, a Horror Film Guaranteed to Have You Crawling with Anxiety
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With hints of demons in the family home and in the main character's mind, Hereditary boasts some of the most nearly unbearable scenes you'll ever see in a horror film!
Hereditary is a family horror film. And I don't mean in the family-friendly sense -- it's a horror film about a family that isn't very friendly. Crawling with anxiety, hysteria, and effective frights, this thing is so terrifyingly demented and disturbing that it'll leave you absolutely shaken -- or stiff, depending on whatever happens when you get the crap scared out of you.
After her unstable mother passes away, Annie (Toni Collette), her husband (Gabriel Byrne), and their two oddball children (Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff) attempt to cope with the toxic aftermath and insidious turmoil, as they're haunted by a sinister curse that seems to be embedded within them.
With hints of demons in the house and demons in the mind, it becomes a continuous mystery as to what the hell is going on with this family. The story's ghostly images exude power in their subtlety and faintness -- it's like if you were to actually glance upon an apparition in real life (spooky!). Hereditary boasts some of the scariest, most nearly-unbearable scenes you'll ever witness in a horror film -- the type of scenes that will make you hold your breath and sink down into your seat.
Just like Annie's miniaturist artwork, director Ari Aster crafts the film with meticulous detail. The overall atmosphere is so tense and somber that it actually feels as if you're sitting in on a funeral - a very twisted and deranged one. The picture is impeccably framed, donning a dollhouse-like aesthetic and placing focus on uneasy views through box-y doorways and windows. It's almost like if Wes Anderson went Satanic. The camerawork is noticeably active, exhibiting slow pans and zooms, rotating shots, and upside-down shots -- which all increase the anxiety. And the sound design here is so unsettling -- every click, slide, or scribble might make you think twice about every any you hear long after you go home. Then there's Colin Stetson's stellar musical score. It's brooding, unhinged, and hair-raising as it floods every scene with dread.
Toni Collette's performance here is captivatingly tumultuous, to the point where it's actually uncomfortable to watch, yet extremely impressive at all once. Her range is commendable, and she goes into some really dark places here. Collette seriously deserves an Oscar nomination for this role. The supporting cast is great too. Milly Shapiro, in particular, gives one of the creepiest creepy child performances in recent memory. The cast's across-the-board devotion is crucial, because there's some pretty weird stuff going on with the characters in this movie, and we don't often see these types of things pulled off with this much conviction.
Hereditary joins the ranks of modern, artful horror classics like It Follows, The Babadook, and The Witch. It's suffocating until the severed end.