Hereditary’s weird story and slow-burn pace will turn off some people, but if you want a genuinely messed-up, creepy experience, this movie is for you.
Plot: A miniatures artist (Toni Collette) begins to believe her house is haunted by the spirit of her dead daughter.
Review: Hereditary is brought to you by the good folks at A24, the same production company that brought you Everything Everywhere All At Once and The Green Knight. In other words, they like artsy movies that are incredibly convoluted and messed up. Hereditary, the first feature by Ari Aster (who subsequently brought you the weird and wonder Midsommar), fits that bill. It’s bizarre, it’s hard to follow, and it’s creepy as hell.
This type of movie needs multiple viewings because I almost guarantee you won’t get it on the first viewing. At least, I didn’t. This is a movie where stuff just happens, and you either accept it and try to figure it out, or you shrug and look at your phone. This isn’t an easy movie to watch. The characters are off-kilter, the story meanders, and occasionally, you’re thrown a bone to piece it all together. Most of the time, though, you’ll be lost.
This isn’t to say this is a bad movie. I quite enjoyed it. I don’t mind sitting there and trying to figure out what’s going on. Modern moviegoers are usually handed things on a platter, though. So, if you’re one of those people, you will absolutely hate this movie. You’ll sit there and try to figure out what’s going on. Occasionally, you’ll get a thread. That’s all you get it – you better hope you hold on to that thread tight.
What this movie also is, is incredibly creepy and, at times, shocking. If you’re unfamiliar with Aster’s Midsommar, he doesn’t mind full-frontal nudity. He also doesn’t mind showing you terrible and gory things and letting you decide if you’ll get up and leave or not. Again, I don’t mind it, but most people are weaned on the PG Hollywood teat these days. So again, if that turns you off, I get it.
The characters are wonderfully weird. Toni Collette carries the film, and you’re constantly wondering if she’s going insane or the only sane character in the movie. Gabriel Byrne is sturdy as the anchor that tries to ground the story in some sense of reality. Alex Wolff gives a terrific performance as Peter, the son who gradually breaks down from the events in the movie. Milly Shapiro is a standout as the family’s bizarre, artistic daughter. These characters feel like a family, albeit a decidedly strange one. I can tell you, at one point, the Peter character reacts to a tragedy in such an odd, crazy way that I’ve never seen before – I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s simply nuts. And awesome.
The one aspect of the film I think we can all agree on is Aster’s work with the camera. Several transition shots are clever and add much to the story’s atmosphere and subtexts. The family home, where most of the movie takes place, is incredibly crafted, with the camera constantly making space either larger or smaller than it should be. This is a well-thought-out, perfectly executed film that does a fantastic job of creating mood and atmosphere.
In summary, I thought Hereditary was a terrific film. The slow pace suits the story, and the characters are certainly memorable. I think after multiple viewings, I’m going to enjoy this film even more. If you like a little unconventional horror, this movie is for you.