Having not seen The Exorcist, the frequency of praise Hereditary has lauded itself in of being the “modern classic” is meaningless to me. While not the biggest fan of horror, I can appreciate the genre and those that get a kick out of being frightened for a good two hours or so. With Hereditary, I feel the aim was not to scare, but to create an uncomfortable setting.
It works well, with Hereditary being a nice and fresh take on a genre I had avoided since The Conjuring became a series that could rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Aside from the occasional re-visit of The Shining and Alien, conventional horror movies just aren’t for me. But the recent addition of Hereditary to Amazon Prime sparked a tinge of intrigue, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.
For the most part, Hereditary is built on the creativity of director Ari Aster. A first-time director, Aster’s focus on style works well for a plot that is threadbare in interest until roughly an hour into the movie. The story follows the Grahams, a family plagued by family, and the series of hauntings and misfortunes they encounter over the course of a few weeks.
Impressively, Toni Collette is on hand to deliver the best performance of her career. Fresh with insanity and wracked with guilt, Collette blends the two with ease to create one of modern horror’s most interesting leads. It’s an enjoyable role, one that bolsters the supporting performances of Alex Wolff and Gabriel Byrne: although the focus sticks on Collette throughout the movie, there are brief segments where we follow both Wolff’s portrayal of Peter and Byrne’s brilliant performance as Steve Graham.
The trio work extremely well together, tying together the last hour of the movie with a genuine brilliance. Much of this comes from the odd believability of the setting and premise; Aster’s auteur vision comes to an ominous light, especially in the final third of the movie. We see the expected tropes of the horror genre subverted rather marvelously – more subtle than you’d expect.
But that’s the main problem. If a horror movie’s main aim is to scare and strike fear into the hearts of its audience, then Hereditary has failed me somewhat. By all means was I on the edge of my seat, but that was because I was anxiously waiting for something, anything, to frighten me. That moment (thankfully) never came, and I found myself more intrigued by the story and characters than anything else.
A great movie for those looking for a deeper meaning to the horror genre, and by all means something that can be watched in the dark without too many frights throughout. Most of the “horror” element is built on shock value, and it’s a fresh sight to see – especially in a world filled with sequels to Sinister and The Conjuring. Horror seems set on making a comeback, and it’ll be Hereditary that set it on its way.