Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Hereditary (2018) - Horror Film Review

I've tried to see Hereditary quite a few times over the past few weeks, however a lethal cocktail of a really busy work and bad insomnia has caused me to be too tired to go each time I have planned to. This is a movie that has gotten into the public consciousness, a feat that not many horrors manage to do, even my mum had heard of this film when I said to her it was what I was going to see tonight. While many have proclaimed it to be 'this generation's The Exorcist' and how scary it is I would disagree. However it is still a damn fine horror film that I got a lot of enjoyment out of.

Usually I would go into the plot somewhat here, however I can't really reveal too many details as the trailer itself for this movie refreshingly gave nothing away. Early on there are some plot twists that I just cannot go into. The gist of this is that Annie's (Toni Collette - The Sixth Sense) mother dies, this death leads to the beginning of a series of tragic events for her family, events that affect her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne - End of Days), and her two children; thirteen year old Charlie (Milly Shapiro) and the older son Peter (Alex Wolff). Annie suffers the most with it seeming that some sort of evil presence may have appeared within her household that wishes her family harm...

While Hereditary wasn't a scary film it was well on the way there by the time the credits rolled around. I don't know if it is because I have seen so many horrors, or if the plot felt a little bit familiar but it never went enough in any direction to really make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. That isn't to the fault of director and writer Ari Aster (this is his first feature film he has directed) as this is expertly made with plenty of detail to really hammer home the themes and emotions here. The casting choices are perfect, especially with the core cast of the family themselves. Collette is fantastic and gives a stunning performance as the grieving mother, she is believable which is the best thing about her role, and also is refreshing that she isn't really a good character with the film dealing with lots of resentment on all sides of the family. I also thought both Wolff and Shapiro were fantastic too. With Wolff his performance is more down to the physical acting he does, the fear shows on his face deliciously at times. With Shapiro she is just plain enthralling, there is just something about her that made her perfect as the weirdo loner.

At two hours long this is a real slow burn of a movie with the horror very slowly ramping up until by the final third it is just insanity. A woman at my work place said she found Hereditary to be boring with nothing happening until the end. I disagree, I found this fascinating, the melding of real life relatable grief to the untold horror that comes at the end was so well done. There are some real unexpected moments, the most shocking of which came around twenty minutes into the film. I thought the plot was very well done, but to me it lost out due to that feeling of familiarity, the story shared a lot in common with the Paranormal Activity series of films but has more of a realistic feeling to it which is down to the performances, as well as the interesting dysfunctional family aspect going on here. There is enough given by characters conversations to get a real impression of how much division there is here, with it also secretly giving hints on just what is actually going on which doesn't become apparent until the end. Annie being a model maker also plays into revealing this back story, especially with the dioramas she makes of events from her past. At one point she mentions to her daughter that her mum insisted on feeding her as a baby, it is only later on that you find out via model form just what this actually entailed.

A lot of the horror isn't really shown on screen, there are shimmers and half glimpsed figures but they are never shown in the tacky 'jump scare' kind of way, instead they are just there, and are vaguely unnerving in the way they linger.  The finale has many elements of traditional horror, such as chases, dream sequences, loud noises and unsettling imagery but it never goes over the top with what it shows. It does eventually show things that will appease fans of these types of films. Often an event will happen and to the viewer we will know it has happened, yet the film slowly drip feeds the knowledge to the characters in the film. The best example of this is when Peter gets back from a party and heads straight to bed, the tension of the tragic event that happened to him is left unanswered until Annie leaves the house the next day. This was fantastic how this whole sequence played out, everything is set up perfectly so that you are left in deep anticipation of the reveal.

I went into Hereditary really hoping it was as good and as scary as I had heard it was. While I was a little bit disappointed it didn't scare me this was still a really good horror, the plot might be something I have seen in countless other horrors but the performances of the core cast, the attention to detail in the settings, and the confidence Aster directs this leads to something that really did feel special.


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