I was preparing myself to be scared out of my skin by HEREDITARY because the editor of this website, Shannon McGrew, was very shaken by it. You know that if a horror writer is legitimately scared by a movie, it’s going to be some twisted shit. I was lucky enough to attend an official A24 pre-screening at the beautiful Crosby Hotel in NYC. I was thinking during the pre-screening reception about what could possibly happen in this movie to make it as horrifying as I had heard it was and I’ll tell you, there’s no way I would have ever expected it.
I would hate to be the person to spoil this film for everyone but I will say that there is so much more to the film than any trailers that have been released as of this writing have shown. It’s such a relief that all of the great moments are not shoved in your face in a 60 second television spot.
First of all, the cinematography is breathtaking. Shot in the beautiful woodland mountains of Utah, you feel a palpable mystery in the atmosphere from the very beginning. The cinematographer, Pawel Pogorzelski, has a mastery of color that sets the perfect mood for every scene. The score by renowned experimental musician Colin Stetson is also incredible and clues us in from the very beginning to the ominous foreboding themes to come. I also just want to scream to the mountaintops in awestruck disbelief that this is the feature debut for writer/director Ari Aster. The script is brilliant and the film as a whole is now on my top 10 list of all time.
Secondly, there are some incredible performances in this film. I have been a fan of Toni Collette’s since seeing Muriel’s Wedding in the theater way, way back in the day. She’s always showed great range but this has to be her best performance. Playing a woman consumed with grief and battling the monsters from her past, I think Colette’s portrayal of protagonist Annie is award-worthy.
The rest of the principal cast is perfect. Milly Shapiro as Charlie gives us a spot on portrayal of an oddball tween who is clearly beyond her peers in a very surprising way. Alex Wolff as the oldest child, Peter, has a nuanced palpable vulnerability that doesn’t show itself that often in depictions of teenage boys. Gabriel Byrne is the quiet disaffected patriarch and one of my only complaints about this movie is that his character doesn’t get a lot of screen-time. It makes sense for the story, but I love him so would’ve liked to see him more. And Anne Dowd, oh boy, she kills it as usual and I can’t really say too much more about that.
This is one of those films where you can’t really say too much about the actual plot or it will ruin the experience for you. It starts off at the funeral of Annie’s mother and from the very first scene of the movie, the tension doesn’t let up, it only builds to an utterly horrifying finale which left me so scared that I had to sleep with my beside lamp on last night.
The film really touched me because of the themes of family (and our resentment towards them), grief, and mental illness. My mom has always had an obsession with the term “generational curse” in reference to things such as alcoholism, depression, domestic violence, criminal activity, etcetera that seems to pass down the family line. This film explores this to the fullest extent and despite some of the more unrealistic elements; I believe this is the true heart of HEREDITARY. You can never fully escape familial trauma, it is always a part of you. Also, if you’ve ever thought your family was fucked up, see this movie and you’ll feel a whole lot better about them.
In summation, see this film. While rooted in some wild imagery, the heart of HEREDITARYexplores some very real emotions in an extremely imaginative way. It’s definitely worth seeing in the theater but don’t go alone unless you’re completely insane because I was utterly horrified at the end. It was so worth it, though. HEREDITARY arrives in theaters June 8th from A24 films.