Dir; Ari Aster. Starring: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro. R. Color. 127 min.
“Hereditary” tells a twisted story of a family unraveling in the aftermath of two tragic deaths. Told through harsh imagery, complexed metaphors, and scenes of intense horror, it focuses on a woman who must deal with the loss of her mother and soon after a child. This succession of loss could cause anyone to grow insane. Decapitation, burning family members, possession, and visions of devil worship are just a few of the jarring images the audience will face. “Hereditary” is not for the faint of heart.
The film opens with the Graham family attending the funeral of Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother. While delivering the eulogy, Annie’s young daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is clearly distraught. She makes a strange clucking noise while drawing an eerie sketch. That night, Annie goes to speak with her daughter. Charlie expresses worry of who will take care of her now that grandma is gone. Shortly after, a bird flies into a window outside of Charlie’s classroom. Charlie goes outside, finds the bird, and decapitates it.
Annie, an artist specializing in complexed diorama’s, is also dealing with the loss. She begins to attend a grief support group. She lies to her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) about going to these meetings. One night, her older son Peter (Alex Wolff), wants to go to a party and see the girl he has a crush on. Annie, believing this to be a school sponsored party, insists that he bring along his younger sister. At the party, Stephen promptly ignores his sister to go off and get stoned. Charlie, left alone, accidentally eats cake that contains peanuts. Due to her allergy, she begins violently choking. Peter throws her in the car and heads towards the hospital. While driving, Charlie sticks her head out the window gasping for air and is decapitated by a light pole.
Entraced by the tragedy, Peter drives home with the body still in the car. Annie is devastated to see her daughters headless corpse. Annie begins to lose all sense of reality. She blames Stephen for what happened, including a vision where she tells Peter that she never wanted to be his mother and tried to have a miscarriage. Her husband tries to hold things together, but the damage is done.
It is at this point where everything begins to unravel. At the advice of a friend from the support group, Annie attempts to contact Charlie from beyond the grave. She believes doing this has put a curse on her and her family, setting off a series of disturbing events that mirror the violent anger left in Annie.
“Hereditary” is a coldly calculated film. Directed by Ari Aster (making his feature film debut), every frame constructed is intentional and unsettling. It is similar to the individualized rooms in Annie’s diorama’s. You can visually feel the distance growing between this family from the beginning.
The cast is incredible from top to bottom. Toni Collette’s slow decent into madness develops at the perfect pace. Young actor Alex Wolff as Peter is a stand-out, and an actor to watch out for in the future. Aster clearly achieves a spot on balance with his actors.
The ending is a bit of a mixed bag. “Hereditary” has some great moments of horror, but some of the metaphors and out of nowhere visuals can feel out of place. It does at times take it too far, losing focus of the main story. But these moments are so few that it takes little away from an overall unique and fascinating film. Not afraid to take it’s time, “Hereditary” will creep up on you to the point where it becomes impossible to forget about. It is an experience unlike any you’ve had at the theater before. Definitely a fresh voice and talent, I for one can’t wait to see what Aster comes up with next.
Suck Factor: 1 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!