Avid horror fans, rejoice! For Hereditary, the new Art-House horror film of the hour, is now showing at cinemas across Australia. Proclaimed as the scariest film of the year and heralded as the modern-day equivalent to The Exorcist, Hereditary is like a nightmare which lingers in your mind for days to come. It will leave with you a strange, unsettling imprint; a lingering sense of dread, disgust and uneasiness that you just can’t shake. This is a movie that doesn’t rely on cheap thrills or jump scares; it instead works on a deeper psychological level, burrowing under your skin and refusing to budge.
Hereditary is one of those films in which knowing less is better, so we won’t delve in to plot details too much. It does however begin with a family mourning the death of their eldest member, this death then escalates tensions between the characters, placing their household, under immense strain. The son is a relatively average teenager and the father is a rational, calm psychiatrist. The mother, an artist specialising in tiny replicas, whom appears to deal with her problems by miniaturising scenes of her own life in the form of these doll-house creations. The daughter of the family, seems extremely isolated and disturbed; for seeing ghosts and cutting the heads of small animals simply forms part of daily life for this young tweenager. Together, they all inhabit a large, creepy house full of shadowy corners, built at the edge of a forest.
As we gradually discover these past events, one begins to also realise the full extent of the emotional baggage that this family carries. With themes of mental illness, complicated relationships and psychological trauma all present, it is these concepts that are perhaps what makes Hereditary so disturbing, for what is presented here, being something that many people relate to. After all, what family is as it seems on the surface?
At first, Hereditary seems to be following the classic creepy kid narrative, (think: The Omen), and though the first half of this film does feel a little disjointed and perhaps moves too slowly; a shocking and grotesque turn of events shows that we should not assume any kind of predictability within this film, nor should we underestimate the film’s ability to surprise. This lack of pace, is altogether made up for in the films second half, which is undeniably traumatizing. Here we witness, an increasingly horrifying chain of events which leads the audience through spiraling grief, then into debilitating trauma, then finally emerging amidst a full-blown demonic conspiracy.
Nightmarish imagery is used time and time again; but in a way which is more skillful and effective than anything seen in any other horror films released in recent years. We find moments of dark humor also tucked in between this films disturbing visuals and horrifying plot turns. Hereditary uses classic devices of its genre; such as a powerful string-based soundtrack, terrifying spectres, satanic rituals, witchcraft and gore. However, this film goes further, adding a new twist to these old tricks, which is extremely impressive considering how often these devices have been overused for decades now in cinema and more particularly, within films of this genre.
Hereditary is a wonderfully visual film, and not just in terms of presenting disturbing imagery. The cinematography is done with great craftsmanship and skill, there are beautifully arranged scenes, interesting angles, framing and perspectives throughout. Stylish and atmospheric shots are aplenty and, seeing the reactions on the faces of each character before we know what is causing them such expression, allows the audience to create in their minds, images even more awful than anything done on screen. Each of the performances within the film, feel extremely authentic, but it’s Toni Collette’s astonishingly powerful and raw performance that steals the show. She takes us through every conceivable emotion with true craftsmanship, showing us a character brimming, with a truthful and layered complexity.
Hereditary, is it the scariest film ever? Perhaps not, as we are certain that it will leave some people unscathed. What chills some people to the bone will leave others rolling their eyes and yawning. However, if you are anything like us, we guarantee that you will be leaving the cinema feeling truly disturbed and in the night which follows, left scanning the dark corners of your bedroom and sweating under the sheets like a paranoid child. Hereditary, is certainly not a film to see on your own, we instead strongly advised that this one be seen with friends.