Starring: Toni Colette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd
Genres: Horror, Drama
MPAA Rating: Rated R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use, and brief graphic nudity
Release Dates: 6/8/18 (Wide Theatrical); 9/4/18 (Disc/Streaming)
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
I’m not sure if it would have made more sense for me to watch Hereditary before writer-director’s second [wide-release] film, Midsommar, released about a year apart. I did the opposite. And, if you’ve seen my review for Midsommar, you know that I appreciated Aster’s unique style and the strong performance from Florence Pugh, but I wasn’t too keen on the way things played out. Fortunately, Hereditary’s narrative progression felt more earned, and way scarier than Midsommar.
While Aster’s unique aesthetic — including a tendency to use long, slow shots — is clearly visible in both films, Midsommar’s horror is mainly psychological and just-plain creepy, whereas Hereditary relies heavily on supernatural horror. Even though I am a fan of both types of horror, I felt that Hereditary was more successful, despite the fact that I was enormously confused until the last scene put everything into perspective. On that note, due to the film’s 2+-hour runtime, and the somewhat snail pace-like scenes, you may feel the need to shut it off because you’re as befuddled as I was. That last scene makes everything that came prior to it worth it; also, it helped to read other viewers’ analyses of what transpired, in cased I missed anything.
As for the plot, it’s best to know as little as possible. The trailers were adept at keeping a major traumatic event a secret, so when it occurred I was completely shocked. This film is certainly not for the faint of heart; but, then again, neither is Midsommar. That said, both of Aster’s films don’t feature nearly as much violence and grotesque imagery as one might assume; the scariest moments are often in the silent, tension-filled ones.
Hereditary’s cast is incredibly strong, led by a terrific and committed Toni Collette in perhaps a career-best performance. (She is, undoubtedly, sometimes who is as gifted at drama as she is at comedy, which can be a rarity). Her performance is as good as Lupita N’yongo’s dual roles in Us, which similarly got ignored. (Remember when the Academy used to reward female horror film performances — i.e. Kathy Bates in Misery?). When Colette screams, she gives Meryl Streep [from Big Little Lies] a run for her money.
But, let’s not ignore the rest of the solid cast, including Alex Wolff, best known for being the awkward teen in Jumanji who gets transformed into the Rock. In Hereditary, Wolff’s character is at first fairly unlikable and actually a bit boring. But, then, as he becomes more integral to the narrative, he becomes much more compelling. That’s in part due to his convincing reactions to the supernatural and eerie things happening around and to him. Then there’s The Handmaid’s Tale’s Ann Dowd, in a role that seems to be very far removed from her work as Aunt Lydia.
All in all, Hereditary is definitely worth watching, and although it can be difficult to sit through, I almost want to see it again so I will understand what transpires a bit better. (I felt the same way when rewatching Us).