Following Lady Bird, Ex Machina, Moonlight and The Florida Project it didn't seem that A24 films could become any more profound, but now they have given us the astonishing Hereditary. 2018 is quite the year of directorial debuts - firstly Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) then John Krasinski (A Quiet Place) now Ari Aster has burst onto the scene with his incredible first feature. Following the death of her estranged mother, Annie begins to unravel secrets behind her mysterious past, however as she discover the horrors of her bloodline the family descends into nightmarish chaos.
Placing tragedy and mental illness under the microscope - Aster provokes thought as well as genuine fear from this gut wrenching family drama. Earning such titles as the scariest film since The Exorcist and The Shinning these comparisons are not only accurate but deserving. Essentially Aster doesn't create an awards friendly imitation but a Rosemary's Baby inspired picture that is executed with almost Scorsese-esque precision. Hereditary is the finest and most accomplished type of horror - one that grows with an impending sense of doom and dread, with shadowy figures lurking in the corner of your eyes rather than the completely distasteful gore-fests that most creatively devoid modern horror films have become.
What works most successfully about Hereditary is its ability to craft an unsettling, erie atmosphere that raises the hairs on your arms long before anything genuinely frightening happens. Aster leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow, dropping delicate hints throughout the film until it spirals into complete hell. Sharp and refined cinematography is used from the opening scene providing the audience with a dollhouse inspired view of the family home. The most unsettling of shots are those that zoom down long, dark corridors in the dead of night or shots that focus frontwards on the characters' faces for long, lingering and uncomfortable periods of time.
Depending on how the rest of the year plays out Toni Collette has practically just bagged herself the best actress nomination. In a powerhouse performance, she gives us Annie - a miniature model maker who recreates events of her life in the form of little settings and figurines. Symbolic of her trying to gain a sense of power and control over her family, whilst also curbing her grief, loss and personal issues in the process.
Frightening and distressing scenes aside at its core Hereditary is a harsh representation of the family dynamic, and ultimately this is what's truly terrifying. We are led to believe initially that the family is simply distant and dysfunctional, however it's only during the spine chilling third act you begin to see the arguing, secrecy, judgement and despair. The plot uses the mystery and horror behind the Grandmother's secret life to explore the negative side of the family tree, suggesting we "inherit" the worst traits from our bloodline as well as the good. Furthermore Hereditary uses the satanic cult as a story device to ambiguously hint that the events are not actually occurring, but a result of mental illness which the whole family has inherited from their past relatives.
Because of Hereditary you may well never look at your house nor your grandmother the same way again. Aster crafts a slow burning family centred drama that unravels into mystery, then towards the end descends rapidly into nightmarish horror. He creates a film of the same calibre as the cinema greats I've mentioned above, using brilliant characterisation, unnerving scene transitions and twisted cinematography. Aster along with the punch of Toni Collette's career defining performance delivers one of the scariest, most unsettling and significant horror movies of the modern generation.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.