Hereditary (2018)

Family Misfortunes

Director: Ari Aster
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Ann Dowd

It feels almost difficult to talk about Hereditary without delving into spoilers, because what is talked about comes off as pretty vague, and feels as though it's underselling the film. This is a necessity though, as what this story must be viewed knowing as little as possible, as watching it unfold before your very eyes feels like an experience you'll never forget.

After their reclusive grandmother passes away, the Graham family tries to escape the dark fate they've inherited.

Don't go into this film expecting a reliance on cheap jump scares, punctuated by loud noises. For his directorial debut, Ari Aster takes his time firstly, in order to develop the characters, and set up the scenario. This is done in an engrossing manner, whilst an uneasy feel stays with you throughout, reminiscent to what Ben Wheatley achieved in 2011's Kill List. The tension keeps building upon itself, leaving viewers unnerved, and on edge as to what may come next.

Wisely, the scares are on-screen for all to see, it just isn't signposted. The way Aster frames a shot, you're left to wonder what you're supposed to be looking at, before noticing something on one part of the screen. Once you've realised what exactly has drawn your eye, the realisation leaves your blood to run cold. It's a simple tactic, but proves mightily effective, helped by an unsettling tone which regularly leaves one uneasy.

Exemplary work is done with each member of the cast, as our central characters believably depict a family unit who've been through the wringer, and are working through grief in their own ways. In the lead role, Toni Collette is downright phenomenal as Annie, the family matriarch. She had a clearly troubled relationship with her mother, and works through it by depicting these moments in the models she crafts for art galleries.

In her first feature role, Milly Shapiro proves to be a captivating presence, and one of the more memorable moments in a film full of them. Her sibling relationship with Alex Wolff is conveyed very well, helped by his talented performance, where so much is conveyed while saying so little. Rounding off the family is Gabriel Byrne, whose fantastic performance elevates what could've been a forgettable aspect of the story, and grounds the proceedings no matter what route the story takes.

Time is often necessary for a film to be recognised as a high benchmark in the genre, just look at the reappraisal Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and John Carpenter's The Thing received. It doesn't take years for Hereditary to stand tall amongst the genre, just the initial 127 minutes devoted to viewing it, and whatever follows that's necessary to process what you've witnessed. An unnerving slow-burn about coping with grief, be prepared to have what you witness burned into your mind long after viewing it.