Hereditary is the best horror film of 2018. You know what. I’m gonna be bold, I’m going to say Hereditary not just the best horror film, it’s probably the best film of the year so far. There’s not a good way to talk about this film without spoiling some of it and trust me, the less you know about this film going in, the better it is for you. I’m gonna white out the more spoiler-filled parts or link you to some great articles so if you haven’t seen this one and want to, it won’t ruin the experience for you. And that’s what Hereditary is above all — it’s a chilling experience of a film that sticks with you long after you’ve seen it. There are moments in the film that struck me the way the chest burster scene in Alien did the first time in that I wish I could relive my first time seeing that to experience that sheer initial horror and I would say there are three moments in this film that do that to me.
This is my third time watching this movie but the first since it was released for home viewing so I’ve had some distance from the two times I watched during its theatrical run. There are things I picked up the second time that I didn’t notice the first (of course) but even on my third watch, there were still more things I was pulling out of the film that dug even deeper into the story and highlighted just how incredible writer/director Ari Aster’s film truly is. Ari Aster crafts an incredibly tight narrative where every piece of the story is vital and is so dense with symbolism and details. You even start to google the movie and there are so many articles that want to help you understand what you’ve seen and dig deeper into the film and enhance your appreciation of it. There are two that I really like from Screen Crush and Mashable so I totally recommend you check those out. Also in those articles are links to more articles and those are worth a read too. The more you know after you’ve watched the film the better it gets and the more you appreciate it.
Before I get caught up in wanting to tell you about all of those little details I love, I’m going to move into some much safer territory. Let’s talk about the acting in the film! Obviously, Toni Collette carries much of the film on her more than capable shoulders as Annie, a miniature artist whose mother dies at the start of the film, struggles with grief throughout the story in various ways. The horror and confusion Annie goes through are so beautifully played by Colette who’s iconic screaming face is now also a pin you can buy from A24. Holding up this atmospheric and tense film are her incredible costars. Gabriel Byrne is Steve, Annie’s husband, who is that innocent bystander who gets thrown into this mess in every horror movie. He does his best to support his family but it’s certainly not an easy time for him. His level head is a welcome addition to a film so defined by the craziness going on throughout the film and its questions of what exactly we inherit from our family and Annie’s family tree has a lot of crazy in it. Milly Shapiro plays Charlie, the creepy kid you’ve heard so much about. Though the film says it “introduces” her to film, Milly Shapiro hardly needs to be introduced to work as a professional actor. She won a Tony for her role as Matilda on Broadway in that incredible production when she only 10. Charlie’s such an interesting character throughout the film and Milly is truly unsettling but also somewhat charming in the role. Rounding out the Graham family is Alex Wolff’s Peter. Wolff’s performance in this film is incredibly polarizing. If you enjoy the film you’re more likely to enjoy his performance but if you did not then he’s going to be your first target when you sling your mud at the film. Alex Wolff gives an unconventional performance which makes sense in the context of the film and the underlying layers of the story but doesn’t always translate well onto the screen. There are some incredibly tense moments that had people laughing in the theater because he has such an over-the-top approach to crying. In Alex’s defense, Ari Aster knew what he was doing and what he asked from Wolff and it works for me.
Even if you don’t like the acting or the story, this film is beautiful in its shot composition. When you watch the trailer, there’s a certain emphasis on the miniatures that Annie (Collette) creates and so many shots of the film emulate that dollhouse feeling. The head-to-toe composition of each shot in a beautiful house with such bright and bold colors feels like you’re seeing the dollhouse come to life from Annie’s gallery pieces. This is, of course, all intentional from a thematic standpoint but also further illustrates the beautiful way every piece of this film works together to create this experience. This film is as beautiful as it is harrowing. Things in the background I didn’t even notice until I was looking through photosets or gifsets and they were so clear. Pawel Pogorzelski has such a good eye and he’s a perfect companion to Ari Aster and their unified vision presents a truly unique film.
I usually take a lot of time to dive into the themes of the film but it’s hard to do that with this one without giving too much away. Still, I’ve already kind of mentioned grief, trauma, and inheritance as it pertains to the film in part. It asks some interesting questions. Challenges you to rethink what else you received from your parents other than your physical features and maybe even some personality traits. Do we inherit the sins of our father? Brain chemistry? What about their curses? Their rewards? Watch Hereditary then let’s talk more.