This Saturday, I watched the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, Ari Aster’s film “Hereditary.” And I do startle easy, but I don’t really get scared too much. I go to haunted houses whenever I can and willingly lead people through the dark hallways. But this movie is so much more than cheap jump scares and ghosts. It’s an in-depth look into what can be passed down to family members, and how that can hurt us and them.
“Hereditary” centers Annie, an artist who constructs miniature models of various scenes from her life. After the death of her previously estranged mother, strange occurrences begin happening around Annie’s home involving her daughter, Charlie, her son, Peter, and even her dead mother. But so much of this film is unpredictable, which makes it terrifying and deeply unsettling. Even when you think you know what you should be afraid of, something scarier appears around the corner. It’s incredible.
Additionally, the filmmaking is so clever and brings a newer understanding to horror as you watch it. The vast woods surrounding the house makes for the perfect wide shot to set the audience in the middle of nowhere and feel helpless. Some of the wider shots in this film linger and force the audience to notice different (and sometimes frightening) things in each of the rooms. And the whole thing is shot in a beautiful style that is immersive and consumes the audience members.
And the acting throughout the film is incredible. When people say that Toni Collette should have been nominated for her work in this film, they’re right. Collette’s portrayal of Annie is compelling and relatable, which makes the terror we see her go through even more frightening. Alex Wolff (yes, from The Naked Brothers Band) also delivers a resounding performance. He is beyond convincing and really seems to live the role. In fact, he has spoken in a few interviews about how the film has stayed with him as an actor and he in fact did his own stunts, specifically during the desk scene. (It was a foam desk, but he said he offered to do it on a real one, and he still slammed his face onto a board.)
I’m also convinced that you can watch this movie at least 10 times and notice new things each time. It’s so structurally and visually rich that you aren’t able to pick up on everything that happens and immediately process everything that you see. In literature there are often so many different interpretations of texts that you can’t argue for all of them at once, and this movie is like that. As a viewer, I still haven’t been able to process the thematic significance of some of the writing on the walls of the house.
This film is a frightening journey through the collapse of a family that will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. You should watch it, because even though you might be scared, the plot and the payoff are so worth it, you’ll like it.