D: Ari Aster

A24/Palmstar/Finch/Windy Hill (Kevin Frakes, Lars Knudsen & Buddy Patrick)

US 2018

127 mins


W: Ari Aster

DP: Pawel Pogorzelski

Ed: Jennifer Lame & Lucian Johnston

Mus: Colin Stetson

Toni Collette (Annie Graham), Gabriel Byrne (Steve Graham), Alex Wolf (Peter Graham), Milly Shapiro (Charlie Graham), Ann Dowd (Joan)

Hereditary's marketing campaign did the film a huge disservice, dubbing the movie "this generation's Exorcist". If anything, it's this year's Mother!, especially since it seemed so divisive with audiences, though this says more about the sort of people horror movies are aimed at nowadays rather than the movie itself.

Hereditary certainly does take some inspiration from some Golden Age horror classics, notably Rosemary's Baby, but the story here is completely original and executed with a unique, fresh style, playing out like a doll's house diorama reflected in the movie's production design (see below).

Following the death of her mother, dollhouse maker Annie Graham and her family mourn her loss as they go about their lives. Annie's daughter Charlie, a social outcast, appears to be struggling hardest with the loss and Annie herself senses her mother's presence around the house.

The first act builds up suspense and atmosphere before a surprise scene completely out of the blue takes the film in a completely different direction (can't explain further without major spoilers), culminating with Annie visiting a friend she met at a support group and conducting a seance which brings a malevolent spirit into her and her family's lives.

It's a complicated film to explain without giving any of the surprises away, but it's effectively done, with a brilliant performance from Toni Collette which deservedly generated some Oscar buzz. The film does have ties to other films about hauntings and demonic possession, but does its own thing with it, and although the ending is a thinker, this is exactly the kind of horror movie that I personally want to spend my time watching, rather than cheap jump scare rubbish or gratuitously violent gore porn.

If this is to go by, director-writer Ari Aster has a promising career ahead. It's not this generation's The Exorcist. Not at all. It's this generation's horror equivalent to Ordinary People.