Review: 3.5 Palm Trees out of 4
by Manuel Reynoso
Hereditary is a 2018 horror film written and directed by Ari Aster. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, and Gabriel Byrne. With the death of their mysterious grandmother, a family’s sorrow quickly becomes a nightmare.
Well directed horror, is an absolute nightmare. No other genre can so seamlessly mix the psychological with the supernatural; the subtle with the overt; the grotesque with the beautiful. With such terrifying imagery so meticulously composed I was equal parts disgusted and intrigued. I may scare easily, but Hereditary did more than just scare me, it horrified me. As a package, Hereditary blew me away with its focus on theme, cinematography, and the exceptional acting on display.
From the very first moments of the film, the cinematography had me captivated with everything going on in the screen. Every scene is framed to coax out feelings of unease. Even more effective are the shots purposely composed to mimic someone staring into a doll house; the uncanny valley is in full effect during these scenes. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the camera really was its own character in Hereditary. So despite how the scene unfolds, there’s always this looming sense of dread and unease. Toni Collette and Alex Wolff also carried the film with their performance. They were captivating and really exacerbated the dread and despair in this film.
So much of what Hereditary does is to foster a sense of looming demise in the viewer, but that isn’t to say that it effectively does this the whole time. Around the middle of the second act, the overall tone of the film changes pretty drastically. Enough that I’ve found myself and several others laughing at seemingly inappropriate times. While I personally thought the film accomplished telling a horrifying story, audiences are split, especially in regards to its controversial ending. While your opinion may vary on the effectiveness of the ending, I personally found it fitting thematically with the story the film was trying to tell.
I also find it important to acknowledge that Hereditary took risks with the horror genre. Subverting viewer expectations almost becomes a game for the film. Of all the risks it takes, the ending takes the cake for the biggest I’ve seen in a while, and it’s clear that it’s reception is very mixed. Despite the mixed viewer reactions, the sheer novelty of it all makes it more than worth the watch, but for me it stands out as one of the best horror movies I’ve personally experienced. Rated R 2h7m