For anyone who likes a scary film, your mind to be messed with or a bit of demon possession, Hereditary is for you. The film has been compared to the classic Exorcist and while it has some similar qualities Hereditary doesn’t come close, it exceeds in so many more ways. This quite possibly could be down to the fact that people heading to the cinema are more open to horror, gore and a heightened pulse than they used to. It could also be down to the fact that it toys with you, it freaks you out and then makes you jump. And at the end you just ponder exactly what the devil just happened.
From first time feature Writer and Director Ari Aster, Hereditary follows the story of Annie Graham (Toni Collette) who has buried her mother and doesn’t quite know how to deal with her loss. She’s not sad nor is she happy which is her motivation to go to a support group. It isn’t long after Annie loses her mother when there is a horrible accident and Annie’s youngest, Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is killed by her only son Peter (Alex Wolff).
It’s this support group where Annie finds herself once again when she meets Joan. Joan offers a friendly ear to talk to and the two become close friends as they help each other with the loss of their loved ones. But when Joan decides to use some black magic to summon her dead grandchild things start to take a nasty turn. It turns out Annie’s mother was part of a cult summoning some spirits better left alone.
Ultimately the film is about family and the dynamics when a large part of the family suffers with mental illness. This film uses demon possession as a way of showing the dangers of loved ones who can manipulate and control family members into believing what it is they want. But not only that, Hereditary manages to show what the damages can be on other family members who don’t live with the illnesses.
Hereditary is full of moments that will make you jump, look away from the gore, shock you with the brutality and creep you out as you try and understand what it is you’re watching. There is one scene where Peter is walking around the house and it becomes so intense as you’re waiting for the jump to come you can hear your own heart beat in your ears. The build up from watching scenes of little or no action to the intensity of knowing something is coming really sets this film aside from other scary films.
Lead by the wonderful Toni Collette who you’ll know from The Sixth Sense, About a Boy and Muriel’s Wedding. Collette was also the lead in a TV show named “The United States of Tara”, a wonderful story about a mother with split personalities. There are a number of similarities between her work on this show to the acting style used in Hereditary. Switching between a frantic mother to a possessed murderous demon, while very good, is hard to believe she wasn’t acting, being that Collette has done this before.
Aside from this, Collette gives a stellar performance possibly one of her best should she not have performed a similar acting style already. And while Collette gives an amazing performance her husband Gabriel Byrne challenges every scene they are together in. Byrne is just not a believable love interest for Collette as there is no chemistry on screen in any stretch of the imagination. Despite that, the two give wonderful performances when they are not in the same scene raising the question if casting was really spot on for such a film
The two children are worthy of a mention as Milly Shapiro who plays Charlie completely steals the show. Shapiro plays down her character with little to no expression in her day to day. Not only is her role creepy, Shapiro is confronting with the aid of makeup and horrible hair. Shapiro’s look and her complete demeanour is not only horrible to watch but also sticks with you after you’ve left the cinema.
On the other hand you have Alex Wolf (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, My Friend Dahmer, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2) who plays Peter. If there’s one thing that stands out for Wolf’s performance, it’s his slow over the shoulder turn. With so many scenes where he slowly looks over his shoulder the intensity of what he might or might not see adds some amazing tension to the scenes. Wolf navigates a wealth of emotions as the movie progresses showing his range as an actor.
Overall this film is not the modern-day Exorcist, it is in it’s own game where no one can win. Hereditary ads a whole family element which brings it closer to home. It toys with mental illness and confuses you into thinking if there’s a comparison between demon possession and mental illness. It’s a clever film that will no doubt frighten or scare you at some point. And while Toni Collette gives a stellar performance there are parts that leave you thinking this is not quite thought out and possibly not cast to its full potential. However, that does not mean that this is a bad film, it is most defiantly a clever film bringing a whole lot of elements into one really messed up idea.