Director: Ari Aster
Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne
Run Time: 127 mins
Although Hereditary‘s strong critical reception has marked it as another horror film that has continued to further the genre in its recent resurgence, Ari Aster’s directorial debut has its fair share of problems. Hereditary follows the increasingly dysfunctional Graham family who are mourning the loss of their grandmother of the family, who has suddenly died. Annie (Toni Colette), her daughter and mother to Peter and Charlie specialises in creating miniatures had a difficult relationship with her mother and tries to raise her two children. Steve (Gabriel Byrne) is a psychiatrist who is clearly uncomfortable with the situation and both children are increasingly disconnected from their parents, Peter, a typical teenager who experiments with drink and drugs. Charlie, however, has an air of strangeness about her who makes uncomfortable clucking sounds and fashions unconventional totems.
Hereditary is exemplary for its first half as there is a growing sense of dread as Aster ramps up the intensity. The characters are all wonderfully developed and the film is totally investing in the events that transpire on-screen. There are also (some more obvious than others) attempts at stuffing the film with multiple meanings and interpretations, in particular the opening shot of the film which zooms in on one of Annie’s doll houses suggesting that what we are watching is perhaps artificial and all of the characters are being controlled, like puppets. There is also one of the most shocking sequences I have seen in a film in a while part-way into the film which instantly changes the course of the narrative.
Unfortunately, these promising set-ups are poorly executed in their pay-off’s as the film loses credibility about half-way through and goes down the route of a conventional supernatural horror film which I could never quite buy. The film, particularly in its climax is increasingly silly and a lot of the wonderful development that happens in the first half of the film is all for nothing.
That said, since watching Hereditary, there appears to be a lot of hidden meanings and metaphors in the film that are not apparent on first viewing, so a definite rewatch is required but I still can’t quite forgive the narrative diversion the film takes.
However, despite the frustrating experience Hereditary ultimately proves to be, the film demonstrates a great potential of talent. Aster proves he is a fine director and excels partly in creating an atmosphere of dread and knows how to develop characters. The film is expertly shot by Pawel Pogorzelski and there are many haunting moments in the cinematography. Colin Stetson’s score also works well in parts and successfully builds tension. I’d be very interested to see what they make next as technically, Hereditary is a marvel. But, I cannot quite forgive Hereditary for the disappointing second half which fails to pay off the set-up of the first half.