Hereditary is a truly creepy and chilling horror film. This isn’t about jump scares, this is about building an oppressive and off kilter sense of dread brick by brick, slowly but surely until it’s final moments make you wonder what on Earth you just saw.
Starting with the funeral of Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother Ellen, we find out that they had a very strained relationship, with Ellen only really close to her granddaughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Charlie is a peculiar girl who makes disturbing figures out of household objects and is also the only person in the family seemingly upset by Ellen’s death. Whilst Annie struggles to come to terms with her mother’s death she visits a support group and starts to unravel secrets that will impact her whole family including eldest son Peter (Alex Wolff) and husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne).
Written and directed by feature film debutant Ari Aster, this is an accomplished stamp on the film landscape. His grasp of how to build scares is exceptional. And the fact that like 2014’s The Babadook, this film juxtaposes true psychological pain with traditional horror makes it very compelling.
I suspect that only two weaknesses could be levelled at it. Firstly, that it might be said to be too esoteric to gain widespread appeal. Secondly, that it is so clearly heavily influenced by specific horror films and directors that it could be argued to be derivative. One particular film is so heavily influential that to name it would give some aspects of the story away.