Film Review: Hereditary

Every so often a film appears that causes a ripple effect throughout the comfortable constraints of a genre of cinema. Ari Aster’s Hereditary is one of these films, creating a new window for high quality horror films through its atmospheric tackling of grief and maternity whilst also building on the fundamentals of old classics that have built the pillars on which the genre stands. 

Toni Collette stars as Annie, a miniaturist, creating tiny versions of real-life scenarios in sculpture form. This plays a pivotal part in portraying Annie’s character as she struggles to deal with the looming deadline of a gallery exhibition and the loss of her mother, the family matriarch. Annie has two children of her own Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) yet their relationship with their mother is as destructive as the one Annie is trying to grieve. Hereditary shows the untangling of a family as secrets and dark pasts begin to come to light. 

The Graham family’s complex individual characters make Hereditary terrifyingly relatable. Annie has lost the fight against the urge to not become her mother as similarities begin to creep through. Steve (Gabriel Byrne), her husband, has become increasingly frustrated at the antics of his wife. His exhaustion building throughout the two hour run-time. Peter is an awkward and vulnerable mess of a teenager as he struggles to find himself in his path to adulthood whilst his sister, Charlie, is the loner child that we’ve become so familiar with across the horror genre (think Danny from The Shining). I can still see the orange coat and hear the sound of Charlie clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. 

Hereditary isn’t the kind of horror film to be filled with cheap jump scares and gory visuals. There are the scary moments you would expect with any horror but the real terror here is built through the tension that Aster creates from the very opening titles stating the death of Annie’s mother to the closing credits. Hereditary uses atmospheric tones and a score by Colin Stetson that provides unsettling background noise that builds and builds and builds haunting your sleeps for nights to come.

What this film is able to do is create an incessant build up of fear that keeps you involved with the ongoing destruction unfolding before you. This means that the initial viewing of the film might not be as terrifying as you’d expect but the real fear is what follows as the feeling of paranoia continues to make you question everything and anything. 

Hereditary stays with you for the long haul, it refuses to let go of the firm grasp on your emotions, battering panic into your subconscious. Don’t go into Hereditary expecting a terrifying experience, instead expect to have it linger for days on end as you try to erase the concept from your mind. Hereditary is a modern day horror classic that builds on previous staples of the genre and takes a a familiar but refreshing direction into the challenges of maternity and the dysfunctionality of family. 

Hereditary is screening at Glasgow Film Theatre between the 14th of June – 28th of June. Anyone aged between 15 and 25 can get a free card from GFT that entitles them to £5.50 tickets to any standard screening.

By John-Anthony Disotto