Directed by: Ari Aster – Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne
Horror is a tricky genre to get right. There’s a very fine line between chills and cheese. However, Hereditary has been lauded as this generation’s The Exorcist, which is high praise indeed for writer/director, Aster, especially for a feature debut.
Starring the always reliable Toni Collette, and our own Gabriel Byrne, Hereditary opens with an obituary on screen. This sets out the stall from the off, as Annie (Collette) and her family deal with the aftermath of her mother’s death. When Annie finds a cryptic message from her mother hidden in a book, she more or less dismisses it. That is until a second tragedy strikes the family, and they begin to realise that her mother has left her a dark legacy.
Aster builds the tension slowly, and other than one of the most unsettlingly gruesome death-scenes you will ever witness, there is little in the way of gore and ghouls until the very end.
Rather the horror is very old-school – that bump in the night or creak of the door, or the apparition in the corner of your eye. This is aided by a suitably atmospheric soundtrack, and thoughtful cinematography that captures every creepy shadow. Also, Collette’s character is a miniatures artist, and her work alone is enough to creep out even the most hardened horror fan.
The dialogue is weak and silly in places, but the cast manage to make it believable. Collette in particular is amazing, and I found myself wondering why she hasn’t actually won an Oscar yet. Byrne is suitably stoic as her sceptical husband, Stephen, while Wolff is surprisingly good as their tortured and haunted teenage son, Peter. I say surprisingly, because this is quite a departure from the usually frothy, teen-fare he is known for.
Hereditary wasn’t what I expected at all. Despite the comparisons to The Exorcist, I personally found this more akin to The Omen or Rosemary’s Baby.
Hereditary is extremely arty, and wears its horror influences on its sleeve, but it’s also extremely creepy. It is somewhat let down by a slightly silly climax, but it is strong enough throughout to forgive this.
In an age of CGI and effects, Hereditary manages to sidestep the tired clichés for its scares, which is quite refreshing. And the chills will resonate with you long after Hereditary ends. Indeed, the family drama is as disturbing as the horror in this movie.
In Cinemas Now!