Evil Is Relative
Chris Kavan - wrote on 06/14/18
There has been so many critics raving over this horror film, that I was afraid it couldn't possibly meet my expectations. Early on, I admit I was worried as the film starts off a bit slow - Annie (Toni Collette) is dealing with the death of her mother - a mother she has been estranged from for quite awhile, only coming to her side when dementia and illness force her to. It also affects her family, especially her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro - in a breakout performance), a shy, lonely child who was closest with her.
The background setup takes awhile - Annie is an artist who works in detailed miniatures, her husband (Gabriel Byrne) is distant through supportive and her son Peter (Alex Wolff) is a bit of stoner. We get a general sense of who this family is and how they get along - while everything just seems a bit off. There are little touches early - a glimpse of a figure in the darkness, talk of secretive rituals, the recurrence of a symbol, a familial history of mental illness - that are unsettling and put you on edge.
Still, it takes a sudden (and for me quite unexpected) death that really gets things going. Suddenly we're dealing with waking nightmare, hallucinations, possession and all sorts of creepy fun. Now, to be sure, this is the kind of horror film that is psychological rather than a fright-fest. There are only a few scares I would call traditional horror - most of it is shadows and reality vs. delusion type of thing. What the film does well, though, is atmosphere. That and a killer ending that totally changed my perspective of the whole film - something that rarely happens and when it does, you know it's something special.
While critics have been happy with the film, audiences has a decidedly more negative response and I know why - Hereditary moves quite slowly and requires a bit of thinking things through. I wouldn't go so far to call this arthouse horror, but it's pretty close. General audiences who want a new Purge or Halloween film aren't going to find this as exciting or "good" but those who like their horror to go a little bit deeper and stick with you - it's going to leave a mark.
Film like Hereditary don't come around often - and considering it's from a first-time director, Ari Aster, it's even more impressive. A talented cast, a lot of twists and turns to work through and a simply killer ending. You'll want to look away, but that would be a mistake, because you don't simply get this good of horror often enough.