Hereditary is a 2018 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Ari Aster, in his feature directorial debut. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, and Gabriel Byrne, following a family who is haunted following the death of their reclusive grandmother. The film premiered on January 21, 2018, in the Midnight section at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was theatrically released in the United States on June 8, 2018. It was acclaimed by critics, who called it “truly, upsettingly powerful on an emotional level”.
I watched it last night and I agree with the critics.
Hereditary is truly scary precisely because it seems like a normal movie for most parts and did not deploy cheap scares featuring multiple ghosts or monsters popping out here and there to scare you with loud sounds or sudden cuts.
For most part of the movie, the family went about their lives ordinarily before things went off tangent with another sudden family tragedy after the passing of the family matriarch. Even then, the suspense build-up is slow and steady as it brings you into the world of the protagonist, Annie Graham (Toni Collete)’s family and their dark secrets.
Annie’s kids, Charlie (Milly Shapiro) and Peter (Alex Wolff), where particularly sucked into the chain of the events that followed. Without giving away too much of the plot, there are elements of devil’s worship, a cult and spiritual mediums. The three of them delivered outstanding performances, scaring the wits out of you without having to dress up as costumed ghosts or monsters.
What not to expect in this movie is the typical murderous ghost or doll or monster that goes around killing off the movie cast one by one in more run-of-the-mill horror plots. In fact, Hereditary scares you more because it is so ordinary in the lead-up. Most of the best horror movies like Shutter (2004), The Sixth Sense (1999) and Rosmary’s Baby (1968), are all the more scary and disturbing because they seems so ordinary at first and then jolt you out of reality to shock you completely. Hereditary falls in this category of horror movies and will leave you thinking about the plot after you left the cinema hall. The ending was quite unexpected and will leave you mulling over it in your seat for a while.
While critics universally scored Hereditary well and gave glowing reviews (me included), mainstream movier-goers received it less well, with just two and a half popcorn reviewed by GV members. This is probably due to the fact that this group was likely expecting more mainstream scares and a conventional horror movie which Hereditary is not. I would still recommend it though. It’s a good conversational piece with friends who have watched it – to debate whether you like it or not and also to discuss about the ending.
Hereditary is now showing in Singapore cinemas. Go catch it if you like horror movies which have a decent plot and are tastefully done with no cheap shocks. Note that the movie is rated M18 in Singapore for some nudity and disturbing scenes.