Movie Review: ‘Hereditary’ is a scare fest with depth


“Hereditary,” Ari Aster’s feature-length directorial debut, falls into a special category of horror films. It’s unnerving, disturbing and awkward before the spooks ever begin. Aster, who also penned the script, magnificently takes the old haunted house novelties and interweaves them into a story about a family broken by its beliefs, insecurities and upbringing. “Hereditary” is definitely one of the more terrifying movies I’ve seen in recent years, but it doesn’t throw away characters and relationships in favor of jump scares. It does the exact opposite, making the tension between the family the real reason behind the dense layer of horror that never dissipates. 

The film follows a dysfunctional family of four that has to wade through the passing of a family member, when Toni Collette’s (“Little Miss Sunshine”) Annie loses her mother. It’s clear that there’s something off about every person in Annie’s bloodline, but it’s never clear — at least until the end — what exactly is wrong. Milly Shapiro’s Charlie is the odd-looking daughter who clucks at random times, cuts the heads off of dead birds and is socially aloof. And Alex Wolff is the disenfranchised son, Peter, who seemingly can’t wait to get out of the house, while at the same time wonders why his family is the way it is. 

The interplay between these three characters is what makes this film special. There are breadcrumbs here and there about the true nature of the family’s issues, but Aster never overtly explains any of them. Instead, he simply tells the story of a family that is broken by its own hand from years of passive aggressive interactions and mistrust handed down from generations previous. In many ways, “Hereditary” lives up to its title. How much of what we do is determined by the situations that we are born into, and the people who we call mom, dad, grandma and grandpa? And can we escape the inheritance of misfortune or poor genetic transmission?

“Hereditary” is a psychological horror film in the vain of “Rosemary’s Baby,” but I would be hesitant to call this flick a throwback. There are new techniques and a certain type of plodding, sometimes unsettling, pace that makes this film seem like something new. It grows in the mind even after the credits start to roll. Questions arise about characters’ actions, and not because they didn’t follow the character’s overall makeup, but because it’s tough to discern whether they made those decisions on their own or if they were under the influence of an outside force — supernatural or other.

4/5

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BOX OFFICE REVIEW

1. “Ocean’s 8”: $41,607,378 (opening week); Warner Bros. 

2. “Solo: A Star Wars Story”: $15,748,575 (week 3); Buena Vista/Disney. Total gross: $176,700,049.

3. “Deadpool 2”: $14,148,517 (week 4); Fox. Total gross: $279,164,058. 

4. “Hereditary”: $13,575,172 (opening week); A24. Total gross: $13,575,173.

5. “Avengers: Infinity War”: $7,238,699 (week 7); Buena Vista/Disney. Total gross: $655,136,398.

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