This is going to seem like a total copout—and I apologize, you guys—but you need to see Hereditary and I’m not really going to tell you that much about it.
Wait! Hang on a second! Come back!
Here’s what I can say: 1) I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a horror film quite like this one before, and that excites the hell out of me. 2) Go in as cold as possible. Forget the trailers, disregard the interviews until after. Go in cold and go ASAP.
The rest of this is obviously spoiler-free. Because I love you.
Hereditary follows the Graham family as they’re mourning the loss of Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother. Charlie, a sweetheart of a child but a bit of a black sheep, takes it the hardest for reasons that are explained later in the film, but the rest of the family seems to get past the loss fairly quickly. One day after the funeral, Annie goes through her Mom’s things and finds an optimistic, yet slightly cryptic note (this is a horror movie, after all) foreshadowing future losses that will lead to something far greater than Annie can imagine. Surely enough, the Grahams are sucker-punched after a tragic accident occurs, causing the family to implode even further. And that’s when the psychological trauma and supernatural scares turn up to 11.
Toni Collette is a revelation in this movie. She’s a goddess sharing her gift with us peasants, relaying messages of mental illness, the struggles of motherhood, and much, much more. There’s an emotional depth to her performance. The movie’s themes mirror themselves in Annie’s relationships—to her deceased mother, to her children, to her well-intentioned husband—and I can’t wait to rewatch it so I can bask in her emotions and let them wash all over me again.
Hereditary is written and directed by first-timer Ari Aster, a filmmaker whose confidence and competence drips off the screen. The story is exceptional, avoiding every horror trope you could imagine (especially in the supernatural sub-genre…and believe me, there are a lot). You’d be hard-pressed to find any plot holes or weak points in its tight 127-minute script. Every minute of the film is well spent, well shot, well directed, and beautifully acted by its cast. Using all of his parts, Aster slowly builds tension and plays mind games with his characters and audience, the mice to his cat. He winds the story tighter and tighter, choosing to let loose precisely at the right moments sans jump scares or cheap tactics.
Every time I see a movie compared to The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby, my bullshit meter goes on the fritz, exploding into a great ball of fire as it’s sucked up into another dimension never to be seen again. I don’t understand why critics and audiences alike feel the need to incessantly namedrop William Friedkin’s movie whenever a horror movie shows promise, especially since Aster’s film so expertly succeeds on its own terms. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Hereditary goes down as being one of the greatest horror films of all time, it’s hasty to toss it in the ring with the big boys this early.
That said, and it’s rare to say this (especially after recently commiserating about this very thing), but all that juicy hype that came out of Sundance earlier this year was completely warranted. Believe it, people. Hereditary is an instant modern classic. It hits a nerve with its familial bereavement that’ll make you want to call your mom or hug your entire family. It taps into raw, real emotion and explores humanity in ways that not many movies—let alone horror movies—can. See it soon and allow yourself to feel. And remember, kids: Just say no…to seances.