Throughout “Spooktober,” Nicklaus Neitling reviews one horror property each weekday.
Hereditary, the feature directorial debut of Ari Aster, is probably the most terrifying movie of the last five years. It represents everything horror can be and should be. Seriously, watch this movie.
In the film, Toni Collette stars as miniature artist Annie Graham. Gabriel Byrne joins Collette as Annie’s husband Steve, with Alex Wolf and Milly Shapiro portraying their children. The film begins after the death of Annie’s mother, depicting the effect this death has on Annie and her family. This is pretty much all you should know before watching this movie. Don’t watch the trailers. In fact, quit reading this review (for now). Go watch this movie!
Minor spoilers ahead.
Firstly, the movie’s cinematography is superb. Some shots mirror Annie’s miniature art, which — considering the film’s ending — symbolizes the nature of the film’s events. The directing and editing construct a bleak atmosphere that grips you and doesn’t let go until the final shot. Aster achieves this sense of tension without the use of a single jump scare — this smart film doesn’t need to resort to cheap tricks to scare its audience. Through her great performance, Collette deftly and naturally embodies the role of a struggling mother. The film also rewards those who pay close attention and notice all the details, especially considering how precisely scripted all the film’s events are.
What didn’t work:
There’s not a lot to complain about in this film. That said, one major gripe involves a supporting character reveal that’s not as shocking as the filmmakers evidently wanted it to be. It’s so painfully obvious that the film wastes its time attempting to treat it as the shocking twist it’s not. Another gripe is that the film doesn’t do anything with Byrne’s Steve. His character can be boiled down to a “skeptical partner” trope and the film fails to elevate him beyond that.
Hereditary represents horror perfected. It reaches truly terrifying conclusions that make you white-knuckle your chair in fear. The film does have its flaws, but the pacing, directing, and atmosphere overshadow them. If you’re looking for a solid scare this spooky season, Hereditary is one of the best the horror genre has to offer.
9 tongue clicks out of 10