Hereditary is a thriller/psychological horror film from 2018. Following the death of her estranged mother, Annie and her family struggle to maintain their sanity as tragedy and dark forces threaten to consume them.
Hereditary is a breath of fresh air when it comes to modern horror movies. These days horror is filled with sub par acting, overuse of jump scares, and lackluster storytelling. Hereditary knocks it out of the park with its acting. The main character Annie is played by Toni Collette, and she delivers on all fronts with this role. She really shows off her acting ability as she convincingly ranges from grieving mother, to seemingly having a psychotic break. Shes a character that reveals that because of what her mother was involved in, she never wanted to have a son and despite her best efforts to raise him regardless of the failed abortion attempts those feelings still affected who he was. Alex Wolff plays her son Peter. He’s an emotionally crippled teenager who starts to revert back into some childish habits like calling his mother “mommy” and crying when things get intense. His mental state begins to deteriorate following the death of his little sister. He blames himself for it since it happened when he was with her, but he also partly blames his mother since she forced him to bring his sister with him.
The best thing about this movie is that atmosphere and tone. There’s constantly this sense of dread and hopelessness building and festering through the movie. From the families initial response to dealing with the grandmothers death to the way they deal with the death of the daughter shortly after. Everyone blames themselves in a way and they each clash with each other as a result. There is a nice use of subtlety to some parts where if you pay attention you’d notice how it comes up and effects the story later on. For instance, when Annie is in group therapy and talking about the issues she had with her family growing up, she mentions how her brother was schizophrenic and kept claiming their mother was trying to put people into him. This is a detail easily glossed over but something that becomes central later in the film.
The movie does a great job of building and keeping the tension high and keeping you guessing as to whats going on. I liked the way that the movie shows Annie talking about her family issues as she breaks down, detailing about how her mom had dissociative identity disorder and dementia, then later on in the movie we see her seemingly showing symptoms of the same mental issues her mother had. Other characters seem to believe that she’s mentally breaking and becoming like her mother as she struggles to offer proof of the supernatural to them. Once she shows her proof things take a turn for the worse, and her mental state seems to worsen as she acts completely irrational at times, leading her husband and son to view her as a threat.
The first half of the movie dealt with more drama than anything, but the last part was strictly supernatural horror and my favorite part. Even though it delved into straight horror, it didn’t rely on average horror tropes like jump scares and people doing dumb things. Towards the end its revealed that the dead grandmother was the leader of a demonic cult and everything that was happening was in fact supernatural and Annie wasn’t losing her mind. The whole thing ends up being a plot to use Peters body as the entity the cult serves wanted a male from the grandmothers bloodline as there was something in their genetics that it favored. What I loved about the last part was the use of tension. For instance, there’s a scene where Peter wakes up in bed at night and looks a toward his door where he heard something, out of focus and shrouded in the dark behind him you can make out that his mother is crouched in the corner on the ceiling of the room. Its a really creepy scene and had me on edge wondering what was going to happen next.
Overall Hereditary is a pretty good movie and a great horror movie. For a modern movie I loved how it didn’t rely on cheap gimmicks and overused tropes to try and scare people and instead focused on building the story and an atmosphere that caused fear and tension.