An unsettling horror that makes up for its poor pacing with some satisfyingly shocking moments and excellent acting.
Hereditary has thus far been built up as one of the scariest films of the year, with stories of audience members fainting at various festivals cropping up closer to its release. Whilst the film is not quite scary to that degree, Hereditary is nonetheless a deeply unsettling film with its share of shocks making up for some pacing issues.
The film follows Annie (Toni Collette) and the rest of her family as they deal with the death of her estranged mother. Unsure how to feel about this passing and trying to cope with other stresses in life, Annie struggles to console herself about her troubled past with things being made worse as sudden dark occurrences threaten to harm her family.
As many anticipated then, Hereditary is in many ways a horrifying film. Whilst this isn’t necessarily the case throughout, there are a number of impactful moments that are truly gut-wrenching to watch. Aside from these moments though, the film still feels consistently uncomfortable due to the heavy atmosphere that is built up through the excellent lighting and music. A low, pulsing soundtrack accompanies the film during scenes of relative quiet, bringing with it a feeling of unease that keeps you in anticipation.
This atmosphere is in no small part down to director Ari Aster whose work here is unique to that of most other horror films. His direction feels methodical and purposeful with a surprising lack of quick edits allowing the camera to just hang on certain pivotal scenes. This break from convention is a welcome one and means that even some of the recycled modern horror tropes used in the film feel fresh.
As for the plot, Hereditary definitely has an interesting setup, with story doing enough to keep you relatively intrigued as to what’s really going on with Annie and her family. This curiosity is thanks to a handful of twists throughout that are very unexpected and will throw many people’s predictions to the wind. However, there are a few lulls, particularly during the middle portion of the film where intrigue can turn to frustration as it really isn’t clear where the plot is going. This is definitely a pacing issue as the film feels a little too long with a runtime of just over two hours.
Aside from this though, the performances from all involved are fantastic. We’re with Toni Collette’s Annie for most of the movie and the actress puts in an incredibly powerful performance that is both demanding and emotionally challenging. When we’re not with her though, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, who play Annie’s son Peter and daughter Charlie respectively, are both excellent with the former really impressing closer to the film’s climax.
Overall, Hereditary is a refreshing horror that falls into the same ilk of 2015’s The Witch. Whilst perhaps not as terrifying as many are making it out to be, the film is certainly unsettling with particular moments sure to stay with you after the credits. Despite its pacing issues, Hereditary is worth sticking with for its weird yet wonderful ending.
Hereditary, directed by Ari Aster, is distributed in the UK by A24, certificate 15