Every week, the folks at iTunes find a movie they like and make it available to rent for the low, low price of $0.99. I’m here to tell you whether that film is worth your hard-earned dollar.
This week, a grieving family is wrung through the wringer and then some in A24’s masterful, mind-f**k of a horror film Hereditary.
Who’s Going to Take Care of Me?
When the enigmatic matriarch of the Graham family passes away, she leaves behind a cryptic trail of clues that slowly begin to lift the fog of mystery that surrounded her life. One that may reveal terrifying secrets about the progeny and destiny of her adult daughter and grandchildren. Welcome to the deliriously twisted world of Ari Aster’s Hereditary.
You Didn’t Kill Her, Annie
By now, we’re guessing you’ve heard a thing or two about Ari Aster’s debut feature, and we’d bet some of the things you’ve heard have left you wondering if you should test the film’s savagely murky waters. So with that in mind, we’ll go ahead and lay out a few necessary truths about Hereditary. Yes, Aster’s film is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing of 2018. Yes, there’s a moment in the middle of Hereditary that’s likely to go down as one of the most horrifying, emotionally jarring in the history of cinema. And yes, the film only gets more unsettling in the wake of that moment.
Still with us? Good, ’cause the truth is, beneath the surface of Hereditary‘s dramatically gnarled narrative and emotionally gut-wrenching nature, there’s a beautifully crafted little horror/drama that happens to be one of 2018’s best films.
At the heart of that drama is an absolutely fearless performance from Toni Collette that should earn her some long overdue awards attention. Those of you familiar with Collette’s work already know her to be an actor of uncommon emotional depth and range. If you don’t know Collette’s oeuvre that’s ok, because nothing can quite prepare you for what she brings to Hereditary. To put it mildly, the actor brings untold depths of anguish, anger, and awe to her role as the de facto matriarch of the Graham Clan, and in turn delivers an emotionally potent performance that’s as likely to leave a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat as your jaw on the ground in shock and dismay.
Collette’s performance is the reason words like “towering” exist, and it’s bolstered through every claustrophobic moment by the dazzling supporting turns from relative newcomers Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro (as the Graham kids), and yeoman’s work from big screen stalwarts Ann Dowd and Gabriel Byrne.
Guiding that stellar cast through the unmitigated madness of Hereditary is Ari Aster, who does so while delivering one of the most cooly self-assured debut films in history. Equal parts stark family drama, haunting study of loss, identity, and grief, and confounding thriller steeped in unyielding emotional horror, Hereditary unfolds with the feel of a puzzle full of pieces that shouldn’t fit together … and even if they do, you may not want them to.
We can assure you that those pieces do in fact fit, and that Aster lays each with such skill, that the entire picture won’t take shape until the film’s harrowing (and genuinely shocking) finale. But to spoil that finale – or even one of Hereditary‘s many maniacal twists and turns – would be to ruin the entire unholy enterprise. So we’ll just part ways with a hearty “Hail, Paimon!” and hope you survive Hereditary long enough to understand what that actually means. Best of luck to you on that.
Let me be crystal clear here and say that Hereditary is not for everyone. In fact, many of you will probably hate every insane moment of Ari Aster’s film. The rest of you will hail the film as the bold, inventive, exquisitely executed addition to the horror genre that it unquestionably is. Of course, the only way to find out which side you’re on is to drop a dollar and experience the mercilessly twisted world of Hereditary for yourself. Just don’t blame us for any nightmares that are certain to accompany that screening.