Director – Ari Aster
Writer – Ari Aster
Starring – Toni Collete, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne
Rating – R
Genre – Horror
Metascore – 87/100
Rotten Tomatoes – 92%
Tragedy, manipulation and dread form the tone for Hereditary, Ari Aster’s directorial debut. Aster’s refined skills in short horror films translate seamlessly to his first feature length film. His screenplay sets the stage for a familial horror movie alike to The VVitch or The Babadook. He draws from both of these films, and because of this, the film has a bit of a split identity.
Aster captures his vision of a family plagued by matriarchal manipulation and tragedy, all suffocated by confusion and mystery. His screenplay spawns a mystery that is palpable, which has been lost in the horror genre. We sadistically enjoy 90 minutes of this two hour runtime before we start to truly understand the weight of what this family is subjected to. Because Aster is able to create true mystery, he also compounds the fear and tension of his audience. In most horror movies, we find ourselves rolling our eyes at the stupidity of the protagonists, but in Hereditary we truly experience the helplessness of this family.
But the story suffers from a split identity: a metaphorical picture of a family subjected to manipulation and a heavily supernatural, cult-fueled climax. This leaves a lack of resolution. The first half of the movie develops Annie in particular, but just as her character is nearing resolution, everything is thrown out the window. The screenplay does not give justice to Annie’s character or the investment of the audience. Hereditary attempted to create a familial dread drama like The VVitch and also portray what it feels like to be trapped in manipulation, similar to The Babadook’s depiction of depression. The result is two halves of a movie that don’t have the support to justify the resolution given to each.
Toni Collete as Annie surpasses any horror acting credit for me. Her performance actually made me scared because of how afraid she was. Most of this is captured in her reactions which left me thinking “Oh God, please do not show me what she sees.” Alex Wolff, coming off the financial success of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,shows his immense talent as an actor. Aster directs his actors superbly, draining every drop of fear out of their reactions and performances; the screenplay doesn’t give the characters the same justice that the camera does.
Hereditary meditatively extracts fear from its audience, forsaking scares for perverse dread that buries itself deep into your mind. Aster does this by capturing our character’s fear with close ups of their reactions instead of flashing to the source of their fear. His camerawork expertly obscures his horror, holding us captured until it emerges from the shadows. Even when what we should fear is revealed, it’s slightly out of sight making the audience question if anything is actually there. The dread creates a domain in the darkness, always leaving a trace of true horror until the time is absolutely perfect.
Author: Jesse Ingram