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Review: ‘Hereditary’ mixes compelling drama and unsettling horror

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“Hereditary” does to its audience exactly what its villains do to their victims – weaken you until you’re at your most vulnerable, and then attack when you’re unable to defend yourself. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

Ari Aster’s directorial debut, “Hereditary” was far different from what I expected. Dubbed as “a really good horror movie,” I thought I was in for two hours of jump scares, demons and gore, which, in a way I still was.

“Hereditary” had those, and plenty of each, but it had so much more. Little did I know I’d be examining the intricacies of family relationships as they mourn the loss of a child. I didn’t expect to see acting of such depth in a summer horror flick. But what I did expect, was more Milly Shapiro.

While Shapiro’s character Charlie was still a main character in the film, it was in a less conventional way. Instead of the actress herself, the story focuses around the idea of her after her death (another thing I was not expecting… talk about graphic).

During the first hour or so of watching “Hereditary,” I kept having to remind myself that I was in fact watching a horror movie, not the dark, family drama the movie seemed like.  With that being said, my guard was oftentimes let down, which made me easily vulnerable to scares.

Toni Collette turns in an gut-wrenching performance as Annie, a mother who loses everything. Collette’s range of emotions is captivating as she struggles to maintain her sanity while her family is disintegrating.

For an actor whose largest claim to fame is his days on Nickelodeon, Alex Wolff was extremely impressive as Peter, Collette’s son. As the film progresses, so does Wolff’s development. In one of the most graphic movie scenes I’ve seen, Wolff’s reaction is phenomenal and heartbreaking. As the madness escalates in the film’s second act, Wolff steps up his game and steals the show.

While it isn’t nearly as thought-provoking, nor does it try to be, Aster’s film somewhat follows in the footsteps of Jordan Peele’s real life horror revolution. Setting the supernatural elements aside, Aster delves into real life scenarios and focuses on true horrors that any person might experience. The reality of these simple, yet disturbing terrors make them scarier than any ghost or spirit will ever be.

“Hereditary” does to its audience exactly what its villains do to their victims – weaken you until you’re at your most vulnerable, and then attack when you’re unable to defend yourself.

Aster’s film is a slow burn, letting viewers spend the first act becoming invested in its characters and falling into a deeply emotional state, before they are ambushed with the unsettling supernatural, despair and death in the movie’s finale.

Everything about it is absolutely brutal. It’s hard to watch, but once you start it becomes impossible to look away. I hope to never see “Hereditary” again, but I mean that in the very best way possible.

Zach Goins View All

Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.

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