Death finds a way to bring a family’s nightmares to life in the horror film Hereditary.
When Annie’s (Toni Collete) mother Ellen dies from a long illness, she tries to help her family of four to cope with the loss. Particularly daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who feels that no one will take care of her now that grandma is gone.
You may think it’s cute. But Annie reveals that grandma had a rather unsettling way of doting on her granddaughter when the latter insisted on breastfeeding the child herself!
Seriously, Annie – who is a miniature model artist – even makes a diorama out of the whole episode.
The mysterious grandma is a menacing force that lingers throughout the film. Whether in a form of a ghostly apparition in the dark corner of a room, or from how Annie describes her as someone who may have messed up her upbringing, she’s very much present.
It’s clear that grandma had some unfinished business and left the family with no proper direction on how to deal with the aftermath of her death.
OK, to be fair, grandma left an ominous book with a note. But Annie who has to deal with two teenage kids and a looming art exhibition deadline, clearly has no time to read.
It’s not what you see on Hereditary that you should be worried about. Instead, Hereditary has a brilliant sound design that cleverly amp up that dreadful feeling of an unwanted lurking presence.
The faintest clicking of the tongue and the slightest pitter-patter of feet will have you conjuring up all kinds of dread in your head. You’d better be prepared to lose your sanity a bit in the way Hereditary constantly makes you anticipate the worst.
The simmering tension of course comes to a boil when you least expect it. It’s fair to say, you will regret some of the images you see here. Hereditary also makes it hard for you to look away thanks to the arresting performances by the cast. Toni Collete especially gives a remarkable turn as a frantic woman who is slowly, but surely, losing her grip with reality.
It becomes harder to watch when her husband and children feel that they can no longer trust her. In short, Annie is not OK in Hereditary. Milly Shapiro also gives an unforgettable performance as the troubled Charlie.
She has her mother’s creativity when it comes to making art. But her troubling source of inspiration will make you wonder if Annie needs to start supervising her TV watching habits.
However, Hereditary could be a challenging viewing experience for any impatient moviegoer.
There are no The Conjuring-styled jump-scare tactics or an obvious evil being taking its form to spook us.
The film takes its time to unravel as director Ari Arster doesn’t believe in a rush exposition to tell his story. He leaves clues in various scenes from a harrowing sharing session to a lesson on Greek mythology to help shed light on the film’s rather confusing epilogue.
With Hereditary, Arster has carefully prepared a puzzle with an underlying note about looking out for danger signs in life. Poor Annie is paying a terrible price for her ignorance.
Director: Ari Arster
Cast: Toni Collete, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne