If the intent of great horror is to create images that evoke fear, anxiety, disgust, or simply just haunt your dreams, then ‘Hereditary’ is the stuff of nightmares. The night I came back from watching this film I closed my eyes to images of sheer terror and disgust. Now, this is typically annoying to me in films that revel in vile imagery, but it is so well earned and shocking in ‘Hereditary’ that it lingers with the audience for awhile afterwards.
Part of this is surely because some fucked up shit happens in this movie, but most of it is because of the brilliantly laid out cinematography, musically & sound manipulated mood, the unique set design, and the truly committed performances. Toni Collette and Alex Wolff do very intense work here. Honestly, it’s enough to wonder if they lost a piece of themselves in these roles. It would be hard not to lose a piece of yourself to a role that involves imagining such vicious harm to children or loved ones right before your eyes.
The plot behind this horrific trip into Satan’s family revolves around the loss of a very secretive grandmother, the death of a child, and the ability to communicate with the dead. I won’t give much else away because the shock that you will feel in a few scenes in this film is truly palpable. Let’s just say that Toni Collette and Gabrielle Byrne play successful parents to some soon to be deeply troubled children. This leads to a revelation about the grandmother that is shocking and a bit ridiculous, but completely engaging as an audience member.
The biggest star of the whole film is the cinematography and lighting. The sound work is pretty good as well, but the clever use of the camera to reveal just enough of what is intended to keep you on edge throughout. It also makes the shocking shots of grotesque imagery all the more impactful. Yet, sometimes just a clever use of a pan into a dollhouse that becomes a real room is enough to truly engage.
Horror has been on the uptick in the last several years and often because it’s not brutal or gory. This movie manages to bring the eerie spook work that’s been making a comeback, while simultaneously delivering the grotesque goods that old school horror fans love. Some may find the conclusion confusing, but rest assured, it all comes together if you are paying attention between covering your eyes.