Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
As I write this, it is late at night, my apartment is dark and I am haunted by Hereditary. I watched the Film over two weeks ago, and I am still feeling anxious and uneasy about it. In a decade that continues to redefine the limitless possibilities of the Horror genre, first-time Feature Writer/Director Ari Aster has crafted an unforgettable nightmare that quite simply, will scare the living shit out of you.
After the death of her overbearing mother, miniature artist Annie Graham (Toni Collette) and her family are trying to move on with their lives as best as they can. But something is happening to this grief-stricken family, and it only stands to get worse as Annie discovers horrifying secrets about their ancestry.
I am deliberately vague in my description of Hereditary on purpose – because revealing any of the madness the Film entails would rob you of one of the most wildly satisfying and downright terrifying experiences you will ever have at a movie theatre. This is a genuinely evil Film of the highest regard, packing a demented funhouse of top-notch scares and twists that will leave you sweating and gasping for breath. You hear this kind of rhetoric a lot with “game changing” films that lose their lustre well before the film concludes. But one of the most shocking twists in Hereditary comes during the First Act and proves quite quickly that Aster’s Film is not messing around. And from that moment, you are either on board for the awful things that happen next or you may as well run out the door screaming in disgust.
The reason Hereditary works as well as it does is due to the atmosphere that plagues and encroaches on every frame (including the outrageously berserk Third Act). There is something truly unnatural at play at all times, allowing Aster the opportunity to use inventive camera angles and brilliantly manipulate the Film’s Sound Design to convey his twisted vision. One sequence uses a particular noise multiple times through different speakers around the theatre, meaning the way you hear it in your seat will be completely different than how your neighbour hears it. Colin Stetson’s unique Score acts much the same way, completely changing the fabric of the Film on the fly. And the Film’s actual scares? You will see some of them coming a mile away – but others will knock you backwards and sear hideous imagery into your brain that you will never forget.
Every member of the Cast is aces, no matter their importance to the story. Gabriel Byrne is underutilized, but chillingly effective. Ann Dowd is simultaneously delightful and horrid. Relative newcomer Milly Shapiro, playing Annie’s troubled daughter Charlie, delivers some of the most compelling and alarming work from a child actor this side of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Alex Wolff goes through hell and back as the audience surrogate and delivers an impeccable and multi-layered performance that will leave you howling with fright. A horrific daydream late in the Film involving his character and classmates is an instant all-timer.
But the Film’s MVP is Collette, who gives the best performance of her career as Annie. She develops her character methodically and her manic energy propels her brilliantly from one scene to the next. Everything she sees and says is unreliable, but the intensity and tension Collette derives from each scene rivals some of the Film’s biggest scares. Aster puts her through an emotional battlefield, and Collette plays into every single moment recklessly and fearlessly. This is a brave, multi-faceted performance that is the stuff of legend. It would be criminal to see her work go unrewarded come awards season.
Hereditary is every bit as terrific as you have heard, maybe even better. It is one of the best Horror films of the decade and is a genuinely terrifying and unsettling experience from start to finish. It is the kind of emotionally-scarring movie that forces you to keep the lights on when you sleep – or at the very least, write late at night. I thought it would be hard to live up to the comparisons to The Exorcist – but believe me, if there was ever a film that could even dare to compare, this is the one. And if there is any justice in this world, Collette will be a major factor in next year’s Best Actress Oscar race.
Elevation Pictures unleash HEREDITARY on Friday, June 8, 2018.