After the death of her mother, a woman and her family begin to experience some deeply unsettling things in their lives, very little of which is easy to watch.

When I went into this movie, I knew that I had to go in expecting the unexpected. I had been told by Twitter film critics that I trust that this movie is unlike anything that they’ve ever seen and that it stuck with them in a very real, very unsettling way. A friend told me of how she was haunted by dreams of the entities hiding just out of her field of view despite clutching a rosary as she went to sleep. Another friend described the film as torture and that he could never recommend the movie. As of yet, I have not been haunted by dreams (although my reality certainly has me a bit more on edge than I am used to), but everything else that has been described is very true of me. I’ve never seen a movie quite like this, nor had one stick with me in the ways that this movie has. It has done everything to me that one would expect a good horror movie to do.

I wish that I hadn’t seen it.

This movie has a lot of excellent things about it, but perhaps the most excellent is Toni Collette’s performance as the matriarch of this family. We spend a majority of the film’s screentime following her around as she deals with the passing of her mother, with whom she never really got along with, through a variety of ways, including modeling her traumas in miniature, which is deeply upsetting to me as a viewer but you do you, Annie. Collette experiences a wide spectrum of emotions in this film, although most of them are negative in one way or another. Although she spends most of her performance in a negative place, she is able to impeccably differentiate the many negative emotions. Her horror is distinct from her subtle fear which is distinct from her crushing sadness (the film allows her wracking sobs to score one of the most upsetting images in a film filled with upsetting imagery) which is distinct from her frustration which is distinct from her rage. She can be subtle in her emotions when she needs to be subtle, but she can also be excessive in her emotions when she needs to be excessive. There are moments in the film where her facial expression needs to change on a dime, and she does it in this very subtle, very distinct way that does not feel forced or over-the-top. It feels exactly as it needs to feel in that moment, and it leads to imagery that I still have playing in my brain. This movie gets almost everything right, including other strong performances from Gabriel Bryne, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd and the incredibly haunting debut film performance from Milly Shapiro (she was apparently one of the original Matildas in the Broadway production of the same name, which, lolz). I think this movie could have worked without a truly great performance in the lead role, but it’s all the better for it. Collette received an Academy Award nomination for her work in The Sixth Sense and I am hoping she gets the same attention here. It’s one of the best, most memorable and troubling performances I’ve ever seen in a horror movie.

I wish that I hadn’t seen it.

Director Ari Aster has been writing and directing his own short films for about seven years, but this is his feature debut. If this movie is any indication of what is to come from this man, he is going to have a long illustrious career in films that I will deeply regret seeing. Aster very clearly had a vision for what he wanted this movie to be, and he executed that vision with an incredible confidence. He, alongside his cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, set up each shot in a very intentional way, often staring with wide shots and very slowly, very deliberately creeping forward, giving the audience an unsettling feeling of dread. Other times, the two will just lock into a shot and hold it for a punishingly long period of time, building dread in its own way, as you patiently wait for the other shoe to drop and for the scary thing to finally happen, but it rarely does. The film doesn’t give you relief. It just builds dread upon dread upon dread until the film’s final act, where it consistently teases dread through close-ups on our actors’ faces (I can probably describe every nook and cranny of Collete and Alex Wolff’s faces), until it finally shows the awful thing they’re seeing which are all, indeed, awful (Spoilers abound, but here is an interview with Aster where he talks about how two of the most upsetting moments of this movie are the images that first popped into his head, and how he shot one of them, which is also deeply upsetting.).  That doesn’t even touch the subtle horrors of this movie, where you are left thinking “wait, do I see what I think I’m seeing in the corner of that screen?” only to later confirm that, yep, indeed, things are about to go terribly for you as an audience member. And that is just what we visually see. It doesn’t even touch on Aster’s script, which so perfectly focuses primarily on the inner demons and traumas that exist inside of all families, although this family is particularly troubled. It also doesn’t touch on the subtle sound design of this movie. There are so many times when the film cuts away from Colin Stetson’s genuinely unnerving score and just allows diegetic sound effects to haunt you. I really cannot think of a technical moment that really disappointed me in this movie.

I wish that I hadn’t seen it.

Like I’ve mentioned throughout this review, this is one of the best-executed movies I’ve ever had the joy/horror/regret of seeing in a theater. I don’t think that this will be the case for everyone (its CinemaScore suggests that to be the case). This movie either works for you or it doesn’t. You’ll either be haunted or insulted. Personally, this movie did things to me that I’ve never really experienced in a theater, which is almost certainly what Aster was hoping for. I felt uncomfortably warm throughout the last half hour or so. I whispered to my friends “I just want it to be over” about a half a dozen times throughout the film’s third act because I just wanted to be released from its tight grasp over me. Little did I know that after the film, I would continue to feel uncomfortably warm, with the added experience of a dull pain just under my ribs, similar to something a character experiences at one point during the film, something I’m electing to believe is a coincidence so I don’t lose my mind. Additionally, I briefly felt nauseous while having to hold back what felt like a sudden rush of tears. It was at this moment that I realized that this film may never leave me. I will always live with the knowledge of what this movie was able to execute, and I am intensely impressed by what Aster, his cast, and his crew were able to pull off. I’ve never seen anything like it, and likely never will again. It’s that good.

I wish that I hadn’t seen it.


I wish that I hadn’t seen it.

Hereditary Wikipedia
Toni Collette IMDb
Milly Shapiro Wikipedia

Photo Credits
Cover Photo
Toni Collette
Aster Directing
Ants In My Eyes Johnson

4 thoughts on “Hereditary Review

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