Cinemaster Score: 9.5/10
Hereditary may not be for everyone. It has a slow pace, minimal jump-scares, and a lack of narrative hand-holding. But for those who embrace it, Hereditary is a terrifically crafted film filled with tense horror and an unnerving sense of dread permeating throughout it. Director Ari Aster shows an unprecedented level of skill – especially considering Hereditary is his first full-length feature film. The way he guides these amazing characters is nothing short of phenomenal and he does so through an excellent script that sets each scene’s mood perfectly. Aster’s aided by a stellar cast of actors who put in career-best performances all around. Toni Collette in particular is breathtaking in her portrayal of a grieving family member. Her part in this darkly atmospheric story is one for the ages. What a story it is, though. One full of enough twists and shocks to fill 10 lesser movies. Each component coming together to form a stellar horror film that hearkens back to the classics and paves the way for a new generation of horror filmmaking.
Acting; Toni Collette is the star in Hereditary. Her performance as a woman grieving over the death of her mother is absolutely stunning. She embodies her character in ways most actors aren’t able to, creating a believable and relatable character we care for. It was not only one of best performances of the year, but one of the best we’ve ever seen in any genre. Her son is played by Alex Wolff and her husband by Gabriel Byrne – who both are excellent in every scene they’re in, and are equally as memorable in their portrayals. Collette’s daughter in the film is played by Molly Shapiro – who’s nearly perfect in her role and makes every scene that she’s in first-rate. Every actor in Hereditary is putting in a career best performance here, making a great film so much better.
Script; Behind the great aforementioned acting, you have the script being put to use. It’s a well-written one to say the least, exposing a deep darkness early in the story. Even though the lines aren’t necessarily memorable, they all carry a certain weight to them when heard. Hereditary is written as to slowly build upon its own mysterious atmosphere. Together, the individual pieces of script work together to create a distinctively creepy vibe for viewers. The film isn’t meant to be scary from the get-go. However, it does become a terrifying nightmare if you pay attention. As Hereditary rises toward its climax it is penned with more and more lines of importance that the characters must unravel. The film’s ending was written in a way that perfectly matched the rest of its pace, making for a sinister tone and scary experience by time the credits roll.
Characters; The most convincing part about Hereditary is the cast of characters. Its main three characters represent (accurately) everyday types of people – rather than the overdramatized versions in other horror films. Steve (Gabriel Byrne) is the down-to-earth father that plays mediator in most situations. Peter (Alex Wolff) takes up the role of rowdy teenager that is easy to sympathize with due to the great acting and rich emotions present. Annie (Toni Collette) is the one to stand out, though. She slowly loses her grip on sanity due to a parent’s love and the destruction it causes drives the plot – making for a well-rounded character. There are also the side characters like Joan (Ann Dowd) and Annie’s mother whose suspicious natures – even from mere mention – are bound to be off-putting. Not to forget Charlie (Molly Shapiro) is an oddball that brings tension to the rest of the family. All these characters – when combined with an already amazing film – make for a fantastic watch.
Direction; There are two key factors to think about when considering the skill in directing behind Hereditary. The first is to look at modern horror cinema. Currently there are few movies that are amazing, original, or legitimately scary. The chances of all three in one film are scant. The second is a study of the particular director’s experience. Hereditary is Ari Aster’s first feature-length film. The film itself is a great feat for the horror genre as it revives what most have let die – pure horror. Many directors nowadays sacrifice a truly horrifying movie as a whole for some spooky jump-scares or a generic ending. Therefore, Ari Aster proves he may very well be the next to revolutionize an ever-changing industry. He is very successful early into his career and has a clear grasp on how to make a great horror movie – with slow burning tension until the very end. It’s difficult not to be eager for his next projects.
Story; The plot behind Hereditary is not for the faint of heart. It is one that starts on a dark note before plunging into the depths. This quickly sets the tone and the plot begins its slow ascension towards climax. But, it makes sure to keep a consistent and determined pace. There are a few extremely effective twists that leave viewers stunned. Hereditary’s story is (most importantly) set up with an eerie sense of realism. Most events throughout the film are casual. Implemented in them, though, are the necessary elements of horror. Trepidation sets in with audiences before gradually getting more and more intense. The story then takes a swift turn into the supernatural with strong themes of paganism. The movie’s final act is over the top – containing bodily horrors that are quite disturbing. The film then closes in a way that makes for a fitting end and will leave your jaw dropped.
Enjoyment; This isn’t the kind of film that’s meant to be enjoyed – at least not in the conventional sense. There are no scenes of humor, or any real “jump scares” to keep your attention. Instead, the movie is a slow buildup of unbearable tension that reaches its crescendo in one of the scariest finales to any horror film – ever. Hereditary is unflinching in its pursuit to creep you out to the highest degree. Unwilling to shy away from the most grotesque of scenery. It throws out any expectations you have for it, and in doing so it makes for a very memorable viewing experience. Hereditary is not necessarily for those who want a quick, breezy horror movie – it’s more of a tension builder that twists your mind. Due to this, the film isn’t for just anyone – especially those that don’t appreciate the slow pace. Other than that, Hereditary is undoubtedly a horror film that will stay with you, and may be enjoyable just for that.
David: “I cannot praise this film (nor Ari Aster’s directing) enough. Hereditary is quite an amazing movie that I love. This flick reminds me of classic greats to the genre – having an especially uncanny resemblance to another of my favorites, The Shining. I’ve heard the complaints about Hereditary, but give it a chance and you’ll see that the slow burn of its terror is what makes it really special.”
JP: “When I first saw Hereditary, I was blown away. I had never encountered a film that creeped me out as much with so little being shown on-screen. Every scene was full of great tension and I was immersed in every second of it. This film definitely isn’t for everyone – it’s slow. But when it reaches its climax, there’s no doubt in my mind you will see it as a horror classic.”