Hereditary is best described as a surrealist art house horror film. As is typical with films of this type, it begins with the appearance of a lineal storyline but ultimately drifts into a series of seemingly disconnected sequences and images, the emphasis being more on tone and mood than on straight story telling. Therefore, as also tends to be the case with this type of movie, it is somewhat difficult to summarize the plot. A family of four loses their grandmother. The mother, Annie Graham (played by Toni Collette) responds by attending a grief support group. The son, Peter Graham (played by Alex Wolff) hangs out in his room smoking pot and going to parties with his high school buddies. The daughter, Charlie Graham (played by Milly Shapiro) is strange and introverted, uncomfortable with social interactions. Further tragedy in the life of the Graham family leads Annie to experiment with séance rituals to communicate with the dead. Creepy weird imagery follows.
The film that Hereditary can best be compared to is the Roman Polanski classic Rosemary’s Baby. The movie has a similar quality of drifting story telling that leaves the audience questioning the sanity of the protagonist, wondering how much of what they’re seeing is madness versus how much is real. As with Rosemary’s Baby it is a well-crafted film with strong performances and strong imagery that haunts and sticks with you long after the movie is over. Also, as with Rosemary’s Baby it is a horror movie that is generally less scary than it is one that leaves you with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. My chief complaint about Hereditary, actually, is that it appears to be so clearly influenced by Rosemary’s Baby as to be almost derivative. Without giving anything away, by the time the film came to its conclusion I could only think that this was a story I’d already seen before.
Another detraction from Hereditary was the length. The movie plodded along in parts and could easily have trimmed a good half hour without losing anything. I was bored several times while watching the movie.
In summary, Hereditary is well made but it’s not something you haven’t seen before. If you liked movies like The Witch, Rosemary’s Baby, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, and The Neon Demon, films that are all about haunting surreal imagery that leaves you sick and sticks with you without developing a solid lineal plot, then this should be right up your alley. If, like me, you’re someone who likes their horror movies to either be scary or fun, to tell a solid story, and don’t understand the appeal of something that makes you feel sick just for the sake of feeling sick, then you can probably give this one a miss.
2 and a half stars for me, more if you like this sort of thing
When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited. Making his feature debut, writer-director Ari Aster unleashes a nightmare vision of a domestic breakdown that exhibits the craft and precision of a nascent auteur, transforming a familial tragedy into something ominous and deeply disquieting, and pushing the horror movie into chilling new terrain with its shattering portrait of heritage gone to hell.