Release Date: May 25, 2018
Cast: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, and Gabriel Byrne
Director: Ari Aster
Studio: PalmStar Media, Finch Entertainment, Windy Hill Pictures
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Hereditary opens with the Graham family handling the loss of the estranged grandmother. The family works through the difficulties, or lack thereof (we see that the grandmother wasn’t exactly close with most of them). But as the events spiral further and further from the norm, the sense of unease and dread grows. Just what is going on with these people, what secret did the grandmother have?
The movie runs a taut two hours and seven minutes, and it spends the first hour and forty not answering a question, allowing the audience to sit and stew uncomfortably as a family dissolves. We see the tears, hear the screams of rage amongst members, and, worse, sit in the silence. We are invited on this rollercoaster of dread and we have no control over it, as we learn very early. This isn’t a safe movie, or at least, it isn’t what we thought we understood.
And for the most part, that is fine. You expect a slow burn, a movie that lets the answers linger just out of view, but then the climax happens. In the last minutes of the movie, everything is explained in almost point by point detail. It does unlock and open up a whole mess of connections and meanings to early pieces of the film, but it seems to go a step too far at times. It feels unnecessary for it to go that way, to swing so far in the opposite after all that tension, but it is still handled well.
And that’s the thing.
The whole movie is directed well, it is acted well – phenomenally in fact, it conjures the ambiance adeptly. It looks fantastic, it sounds terrifying. But then, as if the terror wouldn’t take hold like it should it is too minutely detailed, hammered home in the final sequence. The movie seems so confident up until the final stretch and then it fumbles ever so slightly.
While Hereditary is no The VVitch, it is another really good entry in the genre — a newer take on things we have seen before, but done with enough skill and talent to make it worthwhile, even if it has slight missteps. No mistake, Hereditary isn’t the scariest movie out there but it may be one of the most uncomfortable.