Director: Ari Aster
Release date: 2018
So much has already been written about Hereditary: for some, it’s the new Exorcist, for others it’s a combination of The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby. Of course, on its own, the movie bears little, if any, resemblance to any of the aforementioned three titles.
What makes it special, however, when compared to the numerous horror movies released in cinemas every week, is the sincere, sober tone, brilliantly set by the director Ari Aster. There are hardly any jump scares, the pacing is slow, the atmosphere can definitely be mysterious. Some of the film’s fans already claim Hereditary belongs to the psychological thriller genre and perhaps they’d be right, had it not been for the films of Hitchcock or Polanski. Yes, Hereditary is a thriller, but a psychological one?
The slow unfolding of the plot and the suspense of this daring film prevent me from commenting on the story, nor give away any details. This would oppose Ari Aster’s expert and commanding efforts to reveal the plot before our eyes with his technical brilliance (considering this is his long-feature directorial debut!)
What I can say is that Toni Collete’s character is more truthful than similar roles in other films. Stephen King, having seen The Shining, reportedly criticised the film version for the character of Shelley Duvall, saying that, contrary to the character in his book, in Kubrick’s adaptation, it is “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film. She’s basically just there to scream and be stupid.” Thank God, Collete’s character is nothing of the short — what we have here is a very realistic persona. Having said that, as viewers we are never allowed to delve deeper in the psyche of the characters, as the director emphasises style and mood in expense of character involvement (apart from Collete’s character and maybe her son’s, little do we know about her daughter and husband in order to feel some sort of sympathy for these characters).
In my view, the film has four main flaws. First, some imagery and situations portrayed are all too graphic and shocking (do we really need to see people mourning so vividly?). There is a thin line between what is allowed in artistic terms and what is disturbing: viewers might disagree, but I think some censorship should have been applied. The second main flaw has to do with the end credits which are all too cheerful, juxtaposing the sober mood of the entire film. It’s as if the director, winking at us, is saying it was all a joke people, now cheer up (yes, the end credits is what I’d call a surprisingly trivial choice). This is really a pity because the finale is so remarkable it could make up for a few of the films misgivings. Then there are some fake looking CGI effects towards the end, again spoiling the preceding realistic atmosphere. The final flaw has to do with the character of Peter, the son of the family, whose response to every single spooky sound is way too slow in order to be genuine or lifelike.
Leaving aside a horrific scene akin to what I’d call “psychological manipulation”, I’d come to the conclusion that Hereditary is better than your average horror film or thriller (hence my generous grade).
The detailed, analytical directional focus and realistic approach make this one of the better horror films out there besides some flaws, which I am sure horror fans can easily forget if they bear in mind that this is Ari Aster’s debut feature film.
Featured Image: A24