14
Aug
2020
Hereditary

Hereditary

When artist Annie Graham’s secretive mother passes away, it seems that she has taken from more form the living than just her judgemental gaze. Bereft at her grandmother’s passing, Annie’s reclusive daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) takes it especially hard. To offset this, Annie persuades her 16-year-old son, Peter (Alex Wolff) to let Charlie tag along with him to a house party. However, further tragedy awaits them all, as the circumstances of Annie’s mother passing starts to imprint themselves indelibly upon their lives…

...has an elegaic reckoning and you WILL have much to discuss afterwards.

Ari Astor’s debut feature Hereditary has been held up as a horror classic and it’s not difficult to see why. From its droning, suck-backed score to the director’s now established penchant for dollying out of a wide-angled scene awash with hidden clues, languer is the chief weapon in Ari Astor’s arsenal. The slower the camera move, the more foreboding it feels and Hereditary is full of foreboding moments. 

With the majority of the action taking place inside a floor-to-ceiling, wooden house, this is an echo chamber waiting to be filled with sound. Focussing on stories about broken relationships, Astor infuses Hereditary (like his follow-up Midsommar) with characters who start to see hallucinations manifested by their own psychological wounds. Later infecting all those around them, each cast member is given the chance to disconcert you in sequence: Milly Shapiro is blessed with the face of a jaded doll, Toni Collette sacrifices her natural good looks for dowdy angst and even Gabriel Byrne looks he is crumpling from the inside. 

Like the Babadook and Audition before it, Hereditary has its own audible tic that prefaces each disquieting moment. The isolated clucking of a child’s tongue becomes the movie’s ape-able keepsake that you’ll be imitating afterwards. Together with a quietly spoken determination to keep every exploitable avenue open, I guarantee you that even by the end of its first hour, you’ll have no idea how Hereditary is going to end.

With both of Astor’s movies centring on a lingering resentment looking for a voice, like MidsommarHereditary brims both with confident direction and a deft tone. And similarly, the credit for selling each film’s unease is due to the commitment of each of its female leads and Hereditary belongs to Toni Collette as Annie. Invested in every moment, she single-handedly lifts up the movie’s genre-led expectations into something else with an aggrandised tour de force that rivals her turn in M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense some twenty years earlier.

Is it too vague? Does it twist and turn too much? Is its final window-smash an oblique reference to The Exorcist? Hmm…

This much is clear, Hereditary is a horror film that refuses to give away its scares cheaply. So, if you’re looking for a dependably predictable cabin the woods slasher where LA’s adolescent acting community gets chopped up for their plywood theatrics, this isn’t your movie. Instead what it is, is a parable (much like The Wicker Man) which delights you by never fully laying its Tarot cards on the table. Like Midsommar, it has an elegaic reckoning can be found in the woodshed at the end – and you WILL have much to discuss afterwards. Enjoy…

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