Hereditary ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The horror genre historically seems to have given short shrift toward stories involving religious cults, which is baffling considering what a great topic cults serve for a horror story. Director Ari Aster (Midsommar) appears to recognize this as both this film (which is his first) and his sophomore effort, 2019's Midsommar, both deal with pagan cults.

If you have not seen Hereditary and plan to do so, THEN STOP READING THIS REVIEW NOW because you need to go into this film knowing absolutely nothing about the story (and definitely avoid the trailers). Hereditary is about a nice little family in Utah. Annie Graham (Toni Collette) is a miniatures artist whose mother has recently passed away. After her mother's passing, Annie discovers that her mom was a spiritualist and she begins to unravel more and more information about her mother's past. During all of this, her teenage son, Peter (Alex Wolff), accidentally causes the death of his little sister, Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Grieving over the death of her daughter, Annie seeks out grief counseling, which gets her in touch with a woman who introduces Annie to contacting her daughter from beyond. Gabriel Byrne also stars as Annie's husband, Steve.

I have been a big fan of Toni Collette ever since I saw her back in 1994's Muriel's Wedding. She has always shunned big studio blockbuster roles and has instead opted for more interesting, independent films where she never fails to impress you with the quality of her performances. If you have not done so already, check her out in The Sixth Sense, About a Boy, The Hours, and Little Miss Sunshine. Here, Collette carries the entire film on her shoulders and you are completely invested in her character.

Having to already deal with the loss of her mother and the blame she carries for having a bad relationship with her mother, Annie sanity is severely tested when her daughter is killed, her son starts exhibiting strange behavior, and when she ultimately finds out the cause of her family's turmoil. It is a testament to Collette's talent in how well she is able to express all the anger, fear, and grief of her character. Without Toni Collette, I am not sure if this film would have been anywhere near as effective.

If you like your horror to basically be a bunch of continuous goriness, jump scares, and monsters, this film is NOT for you. Hereditary is a slow burn that allows its story to unfold and it takes its time establishing a sense of dread before the shit really hits the fan. From the very beginning of the film when the Graham family buries Annie's mom, there is a foreboding dread that keeps building. Ari Aster does a very good job giving you little clues along the way that all connect together at the end of the film. Not until the end of the film do you have any understanding why we are told at the beginning of the film that Annie's mother was a spiritualist or why Charlie sees and senses her grandmother. Aster leaves the audience wondering for much of this film as to whether or not all of the weird shit going on isn't just Annie going crazy.

The film keeps pulling you in and throughout its entirety you are always wondering how it relates to the title of the film. You don't discover the connection until the very end of the film and if you end up not liking the movie while watching it, do NOT miss the very satisfying ending, which explains the reason for the title and everything else.

Hereditary is unlike any horror films I have seen. There are elements of The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby in here, but this film (like those I just mentioned) also transcends the horror genre. By that I mean the story also serves as a compelling family psychodrama that I did not expect to see and that gives the film a sense of sophistication you do not normally see in most horror films.

A highly recommended film. This film also features a fantastic performance by Ann Dowd, who plays a grief-stricken woman named Joan and who befriends Annie.