‘Hereditary’ Movie Review

Thanks to StudioCanal we had the chance to see Ari Aster’s, Hereditary. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!

­­If Ari Aster’s feature debut proves anything, it’s that the horror genre is very much alive…and terrifying. Aster has managed to conjure influences from the 60’s and 70’s, so called ‘golden era’ of horror, to create an unsettling film, that creeps along at an eerie, sometimes infuriatingly so, pace never really releasing the tension but immediately building on each scare until the audiences nerves are frayed to their ends.

While the likes of A Quiet Place, has been heralded as the ‘new breed’ of horror movies (something we do not agree with), Hereditary returns to the genre’s roots and utilises a mixture of eerie locations, music score and amazing acting, to deliver a movie that unnerving to the core. Whilst most horrors sprint to the jumps scenes that audience have come to expect and are predictable (think the IT reboot), Hereditary is a marathon of fear with no end in sight.

The movie revolves around a family dealing with unsettling emotions following the death of Annie’s (played by Toni Colette) mother, Ellen. At the funeral, Annie speaks about her mother with a cold, unsure air that betrays the lack of a relationship between the two. She blames her mother for many of her own shortcomings, passing off the remarks as humorous recollections of her mother and her impact on her as a person.

Indeed, just from this opening sequence, it’s clear that Annie is a little weird and this seems to be mirrored in her own children – an  awkward teenage son named Peter (played by Alex Wolff), and her young daughter Charlie (played by the remarkable Milly Shapiro).

It’s Charlie that becomes the focus of the opening sequences, due to her ‘unique’ looks and strange behaviour. The girl has an unsettling air to her that is heightened by her constantly clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth, making a sound like a droplet of water hitting a pool. The sound is such is one that is sure to give anyone who has seen the movie and hears the sound after, a sheer fright. Like horror PTSD, it plays on the same fears that stopped me from looking in the mirror too long after watching Candyman for fear of my mind saying those fateful three words – Candyman, Candyman, Candyman – all of my taps have now been securely fastened.

In many ways, Charlie exudes the same strange air as her mother, even going so far as using everyday objects to make ‘figures’ in an act that mirrors Annie’s own occupation as a model maker, who unsettlingly uses her own life experiences in her work. But the playful habit soon takes a sinister turn, when Charlie cuts the head of a dead bird that has careened into her school window, alarming all but the girl herself implying knowledge of something unnatural at work, and uses it for her macabre figures.

These initial scenes develop slowly, building a palpable air of tension that only briefly wavers through some well-timed, darkly comic moments, all of which are predominantly confined to the family’s home that is a mixture of the mansion from The Amityville Horror and Cabin in the Woods.

As things start to spiral for the family amongst personal revelations of mental illness, more family deaths, the desecration of Ellen’s grave and the meanings of some of the more sinister parts of the opening half of the film start to come to light, the tension tightens its grip on the audience as the puzzle of the movie begins to unwind in front of the viewer. This film is not about jump scares, but a brutal application of pressure that is released momentarily before being once again applied, in the build up to the film’s climatic ending.

And while some may feel cheated by the ending, which reveals itself a little too easily given the way that the film has progressed to this point (unless you take into account the mental illness of the characters that are explored throughout that questions the reality of the ending), the story up to and including the ending is visceral and invasive – the way horror films should be.

Hereditary – Now in Cinemas