Sid V 🌪️’s review published on Letterboxd:
🧡 = Technical Merit (Direction | Cinematography | Editing | Acting | Production Design & Art Direction)
🧡 = Artistic Vision (Mood & Atmosphere | Symbolism & Metaphor | Complexity)
🧡 = Personal Affect (Emotional Response & Resonance | Influence or Change in Perspective | Message Poignancy | Originality)
As the movie progressed, the loud, exasperated sighs and groans emanating from the older man sat directly behind me began to escalate into audible remarks of "this is so stupid", "I really had no idea" and "I am so sorry" to his seemingly disgruntled younger date.
You know it's special when a movie single-handedly ruins a perfectly good date.
At its most basic level (according to Aster) Hereditary is an attempt at conveying the horror of a sacrificial act from the point of view of the sacrificial "lamb"-- in this case the Graham family being terrorized by cultists intent on using them to their own, terrible end. This works in its own right with powerhouse performances (Toni Collette... Good God!), expert cinematography, tone, pacing etc...
But that is only the most superficial level of horror presented in this deep, complex work.
To truly understand the meaning of Hereditary, we should look into the (obligatory) classroom lecture scene. As is often the case with films that can be interpreted on a multitude of levels, a classroom lecture presents a unique opportunity for the filmmaker to hide in plain sight the key to unlocking the work's true meaning-- its essence, its soul rather than its heartbeat, and for those paying close attention, the most terrifying aspect of Hereditary is spelled out in one such scene featuring a lecture on a Sophocles tragedy where the question is posed: Is it more tragic or less tragic that the protagonist of the story never had a choice, and was doomed to his fate all along?
In my opinion, the existential fear of having no control over one's fate is the true horror of this film.
Aster does this by subverting what we consider safe, so that "the familial" and "the familiar" become the source of dread-- become instead "the inherited" and "the inevitable".
The Graham family history is revealed to be laden with inescapable pain, trauma and grief. Their genetic lineage and DNA fraught with the specter of mental illness. A sinister ploy predating them slowly coming to light... We can only sit there transfixed in anticipation of the horror. We feel as though none of our poor characters have a say in any of this, and that they are fated to a preordained, unfortunate end. Like sacrificial lambs. Or just lambs. Let's face it-- all lambs are sacrificial to a collective appetite for luxury.
I digress. Where was I?
Right. Hereditary-- Preordained, unfortunate end.
All of this feels as increasingly inevitable and tragic as the cultists closing in on the helpless family, dispelling any notion of free will in the process, and is executed by Aster with terrible, suffocating precision.
The horror is there in the title, and it's infinitely more terrifying than any monster or knife wielding killer lurking in a dark corner.