I don’t know why I didn’t jump on the Hereditary hype train back in 2018 watching this movie only a couple of days ago. I guess it seemed too quirky and I had bad experiences with this new wave of American horror. Movies like It Follows, Under the Skin, Don’t Breathe and oddly enough Ari Aster’s next movie Midsommar. I still don’t like those movies, but I loved this one. It’s a true breath of fresh air in the pretty stale horror genre that relied on shallow scripts and gimmicks for far too long. What we have here is a classic of the genre that will define this decade. It will make even the most experienced horror fans not only uncomfortable but also happy. This is not your usual jump-scare horror movie but a visceral and haunting tragedy with overwhelming black humor undertones.
Hereditary features a very well-thought-out story and incredible character development. It revolves around a dysfunctional family going through some pretty dreadful and strange events. In fact, Aster first wrote detailed biographies and backstories for all the characters before ever writing the actual script. Everything seems authentic and original, making you empathize with the characters and what they’re going through.
Something that hit me first when the little girl after her grandma’s burial said: “Who’s going to take care of me when you die?” to her mother. That’s something I vaguely remember thinking as a young kid and feels like a real question that a kid would have. It creates this intense atmosphere that sucks you in makes you forget that this is a horror movie. It feels more like a drama with some horror elements. However more about that later.
Annie, Peter, and their two kids, Charlie and Peter just got back from a funeral. Annie’s mother just passed away after a long illness and the family seems to be doing okay. For now. Soon, a tragic event will start a spiral of suffering and fear that will change their lives forever.
Hereditary has a slow but really intense pace that will be interrupted by moments of sheer terror. The atmosphere is somewhere between creepy and unsettling. The thing I wanted to talk about was this comical vibe generated by the sheer absurdity of the situation and phenomenal performances of all the actors. Every scene is at the same time very serious and funny and the more serious it is the funnier it gets.
And there are no bad feelings or moral alarms going off, you’re sucked into this surreal world where normal rules don’t apply. Props to the cast, especially Toni Collette who played her part pitch-perfect. Alex Wolff and young Milly Shapiro were also phenomenal. And what to say about Gabriel Byrne who served as a voice of reason in all this madness. I still remember his performances from similarly themed movies End of Days and Stigmata.
Finally, we have reached the section where I should recommend movies similar to Hereditary. You can start with a couple of classics like The VVitch and Kill List with the same type of atmosphere. If you’re up for a more familiar vibe that’s still really engaging check out The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Ritual, Session 9 and The Babadook. That should keep you occupied for a couple of days plus one of the great things about Hereditary is that it can be watched again and again. And remember, you can always come back and check out our Horror section with a lot of great movies. As any great drug dealer would offer you, here’s a sampler of relatively unknown but pretty cool titles: Turkish nightmare Baskin, Lovecraftian horror Castle Freak and Irish The Thing Isolation. Enjoy.
Director: Ari Aster
Writer: Ari Aster
Cast: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd, Mallory Bechtel, Jake Brown, Jarrod Phillips
Fun Facts: Ari Aster wanted to go for scares that were emotionally justified, rather than solely leaning on traditional horror “jump scares.”