While contemporary films of the horror genre try their best to scare audience members with jumpscares galore, Hereditary goes for a different approach altogether. The slow first half puts the viewer at ease, with tensions slowly building as it slides into the second half, all of which boils down to a hair-raising third act that will make you ask what it was you just watched. This is a film which will raise a whole lot of questions, some of which will remain with you after the film has ended. Masterfully directed by Ari Aster, the film follows a family haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their secretive
grandmother. The film is carried by four intriguing and masterclass performances, of which Tonie Collette is definitely the standout. Playing Annie Graham, a mother of two reeling from the loss of her mother, Collette shows the vulnerability of her character in the first half of the film as weird things slowly start happening at her house. It’s the second and third halves, however, that really portray her as a woman losing her
mind trying to understand what it is that is happening to her family. She is the only member of the family whose mental condition deteriorates the most as the film progresses. Her face a combination of anger and fear, Collette gives a terrific and incredibly nuanced performance, especially during the third act when things completely spiral out of control. Gabriel Byrne, who plays Steve Graham, does not get much screentime, but manages to make his presence known when he is on screen. As the patriarch of the house, he is the person trying desperately to hold his dysfunctional family while at the same time, being the only person in the house not losing his mind as strange things start happening, and Byrne portrays these aspects of the character perfectly.
Alex Wolff as Peter, the oldest of the two siblings, is probably the most underrated member of the cast. Despite not coming to the very forefront of the film until the very end, his character is the one with the most character development throughout the story. Although he starts the film as a simple high-schooler, he suffers the most trauma in the film, as he is the one member of the family who is primarily targeted by the malevolent force tormenting the family, slowly regressing from a cool teenager to a frightened
little boy. There is a particular scene in the beginning of the film’s second half, that seriously traumatizes Peter, and Wolff brilliantly captures the flow of emotions within. The fourth and final member of the cast, despite being the youngest, is without a doubt the highlight of the film – Milly Shapiro, who plays Charlie, the youngest member of the family. Right from the beginning of the film, her character gives off an eerie vibe. From making constant clucking noises to cutting off a dead pigeon’s head, Charlie is the
one member of the family who is always at an arm’s length from the rest of her family; she is the only person in the film we are unsure of, and Shapiro simply nails the role. Although she gets the least amount of screentime, she manages to creep out the viewer right from the very beginning, thanks to
her memorable performance. The haunting score by Colin Stetson also adds to the depth and nuance of the film. It creates a pulsating fear, enhancing the disturbing trick the film uses to suddenly switch between day and night in a single beat. The music adds to the paranoia and is the most vital asset the film has. However, what really that enhances the quality of the film, are the production design and cinematography by Grace Yun and Pawel Pogorzelski, respectively. The film switches between interior and exterior shots, which is where the aforementioned aspects really come into play. While the exterior shots are either sunlit or overcast with clouds, forecasting something unnatural, indoors, square-on compositions make the rooms look uncannily like doll’s house replicas with live occupants. There is something inexpressibly scary in believing, just for a second, that the human beings we are watching are in fact tiny animated dummies in some satanic installation.
‘Hereditary’ is the type of film that you will definitely be creeped out by in your first watch. Go in for a second watch and you’ll notice certain details in the background of most of shots in the film that will creep you out even more. The lighting is done in a way that makes these eerie details in the background difficult to spot during your first watch, and when you do spot them, they are difficult to unsee. It’ll leave you thinking why you didn’t spot them sooner, since they were right infront of you the whole time. Masterfully directed and cleverly edited, ‘Hereditary’ is a film carried by intricate and nuanced performances by the terrific cast, and I would definitely recommend watching this.