IMDB YEAR RELEASED:
Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Ann Dowd
“Every family tree hides a secret.” and “Evil runs in the family.”
Hereditary is about a grieving family caught in the midst of horrific and tragic circumstances that are inextricably and mysteriously linked to the past.
Annie (Toni Collette) is in the midst of grieving for her mentally ill mother who has recently died, when an even more horrific and tragic death occurs in her family. Instead of turning inward to support each other, the disparate members of the family seek solace elsewhere, and exacerbate their loneliness and loss with a profound emotional trauma that is a bleakness without redemption, healing, or closure. Coupled to the anguish that shadows these characters as a pall is the overarching thought that this is all an orchestration of an inescapable family curse or worse, the beginnings of the onset of a mental illness that is fatal.
This is a multi-layered family drama in which all of the players (members of the family) believe that they are to blame for all the profound pain. They all say, “It’s my fault,” but they all want to say, “It’s your fault.” In either case they are right and wrong, because the circumstances are complicated by this family curse that reveals itself as mental illness, but would more adequately be described as a supernatural legacy that follows every generation. At its heart, Hereditary is a hardcore horror film that turns hardcore somewhere in the middle. It starts off like a psychological, slow-burn type of movie, but then rather quickly from that point amplifies into a supernatural film rife with metaphor and symbolism.
The actors are all really well-chosen for their roles. The child actors are always difficult to cast and yet, here these children appear perfect. I always enjoy Gabriel Byrne. Here, he has to be less subtle than usual, and plays the perfect husband / emotional foil for Toni Collette who sinks to the most bottomless depths of despair. She is the standout performer of this drama and you can actually witness her navigating the deep well of sorrow that a mother would under these circumstances. Ann Dowd has a role in this movie that is atypical for her and a surprise to the audience.
The cinematography is beautiful; along with the directing it is spot on. It is hard to believe that this is Ari Aster’s directorial debut, because his camerawork is superior. The blocking of his shots is wonderful. He uses every bit of the frame in some shots to convey specific ideas that are masterwork quality. That having been said, the plot contrivances don’t always work for me. The whole mental illness really serves as a red herring to make the audience think that this is all psychological. I called a Quiet Place, my top movie for 2018. This movie is a spot better in its execution, but thematically this is a far bleaker film. As a parent, this movie is soul-crushingly painful. To watch these children burdened with the scars of poor decisions and the weight of bearing the consequences of those decisions is awful in a real-life way. Even though the world of A Quiet Place is a more hostile world, the world of Hereditary is filled with a supernatural pall that invites hopelessness to take root in your soul. For that reason alone, I call Hereditary my #2 movie of 2018 with 4.5 Grey Geeks.