By: Nick van Dinther
It’s so difficult to pull off a horror film that’s truly frightening. Many movies rely on jump scares or violent deaths, but the results rarely stick with you after the fact. It’s a genre that’s incredibly divisive between both fans and critics, and fails more often than it succeeds for both. A filmmaker needs to bring something genuinely special and memorable to the table to appeal to all. Writer/director Ari Aster has answered the call with Hereditary. Hereditary is not just one of the best horror films of the year, it may be one of the best films you’ll ever see – period.
Loss affects everyone differently, and this is exactly what the Graham family endures after Annie (Toni Collette) loses her mother. Upon her passing, the family begins to notice strange and terrifying changes in their lives. This triggers Annie to look deeper into her past in an attempt to restore her family back to the normalcy of before, and escape whatever sinister presence has been unleashed on them.
With his feature film debut, Ari Aster sits alongside other up-and-coming visionaries like Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, and Damien Chazelle. He has crafted a haunting, lingering, and truly terrifying film that pays homage to horror classics, while bringing something entirely new to the table. Hereditary is a visceral film that uses a combination of subtlety and foreshadowing to contrast the intensity and shock of the story. From the extended scenes that drag out just enough to hit their peak point of tension to knowing the exact moments to use horrifying imagery, Hereditary is a horror masterclass.
The act of mixing the past with the present is no more evident than in the film’s score. Former Arcade Fire saxophonist Colin Stetson takes over the composing duties here and adds another layer to Hereditary’s depth. Stetson creates an inherently evil sounding backdrop that remains prevalent without ever overshadowing. Similar to the way that Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor is becoming a staple in scoring films, this would be a great career choice for Stetson.
If that wasn’t enough, Hereditary is also capped off by a career-best performance from Toni Collette. Since the beginning of 2017, she has had 10 title roles (including last month’s Birthmarked), and she’s still able to bring something new to each character. Here, she leads the story with a captivating performance of a woman trying to hold both herself and her family together. She goes through a wave of emotions throughout this one, and she hits each note effortlessly. The family dynamic makes every moment engaging, especially with the children. Milly Shapiro is so wonderfully creepy as Charlie, the daughter with the strongest link to her deceased grandmother, and Alex Wolff brings everything together as the troubled teenager. Wolff, known most recently for his lead role in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, proves he has the chops to keep pursuing dramatic roles (his excellent work in Patriot’s Day supports this as well). Ann Dowd (Compliance) also shines. Whenever she’s on screen, she brings a sense of calmness to an otherwise tense movie.
Hereditary is an instant horror classic. Ari Aster has created a superb film that will make your skin crawl while you watch it, and stay fresh in your mind long after you’ve left the theatre.
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Nick van Dinther: @NickVanDinther