A lot of different movies try to be scary; but, once in a while, something special comes along that aspires to be truly horrifying. Not only does Hereditary aspire to horrify, it accomplishes its goals beautifully. Well, beautiful is a subjective term. In this case, beautiful means to be deeply captivating in its grotesque imagery. Hereditary enthralls with a story that blurs the line between madness and the supernatural.
The pacing for Hereditary is similar to that of The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. Every scene is used to build the tension and tell the story, and none is wasted on cheap scares. When Hereditary wants to scare you, it will do it methodically and deliberately, often preparing you for what you’re about to see. It’s ballsy to give the audience so much time to imagine what they will see next before confidently competing with their imagination. You will know that something horrible is coming up, the character in the scene will respond to it as the audience is allowed to connect with the expression on their face, and then you’ll be given time to soak up what you just saw.
Allowing the audience the breathing time to soak in your movie is incredibly refreshing, and it has put director Ari Aster on my radar. Few things are as amazing as a director who truly and deeply loves their craft. In additions to mastering the pacing o the narrative, Ari Aster draws parallels between the world of the story and doll houses. This connection is supported in almost every frame of the film. The clinical distance from feeling like an audience looking into a tiny world and at the pieces used to build it is used to fantastic effect in how it allows you to experience the horror through a sort of emotional barrier, making it feel numb and allowing you to feel it on a broader spectrum.
Beyond the directing, the story shows a great appreciation for mental illness. It plays with dysfunction in the background and rarely openly discusses it, leaving thoughtful viewers with seeds of doubt that run counter to the plot and text of the story. I would love to talk more about the story, but the plot is involved and meticulous, preventing it from being explored without spoiling it.
All of this is well supported by a cast that is very talented. Toni Collette kills it in the lead role. She communicates so many layers of text and subtext in her nuanced character, and it’s a joy to watch her take a descent into madness. Gabrielle Byrne plays her husband and captures a patient and loving demeanor that is deeply identifiable as the world wears down on him. While those are the standouts, there were no weak links here, and everyone’s performance builds up the core of the film to deliver something special.
Hereditary is something special. A horror film that stands out as some of the best work in the genre, an accomplishment in fantastic directing and vivid acting that brings a nightmare to life. Horror fans will remember this one for decades to come and it should stand out as a landmark in the genre because of how it marries substance with style. Hereditary is a must watch for everyone who can stomach it.
|A landmark horror film marrying subtance with style that is a must watch for anyone who can stomach it.