Sundance London ’18: Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary is an updated horror movie by Ari Aster that showcases Toni Collette as her family falls apart.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

The opening shots set the unreal tone as what seemed to be a doll’s house transforms into the setting of this movie as living people move in. In a large architect-designed house, where most of the film takes place, in a spookily isolated location on the outskirts of shadowed woods, a family is ravaged by a series of events that follow the death of their grandmother. The funeral eulogy given by her model-maker, artist daughter Annie (an increasingly unstable Toni Collette) is unusual in its lack of praise for the deceased old lady in her open coffin. “Should I be sadder?” Annie asks guiltily.

After that, an escalating series of bizarrely violent accidents strikes the family. Severely affected are the strangely sinister youngest child Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who draws constantly in the notebook she carries, her teenage brother Peter (Alex Wolff), who starts to behave in an inexplicably extreme way, and ineffectual, peace-making father Steve (Gabriel Byrne). While attending grief counselling, Annie is befriended by a persistent older woman Joanie (Ann Dowd), who seems to have ulterior motives. The substantial tree house adjoining the family home is the scene of fantastical strange happenings.

Horror film fans are raving about Hereditary‘s pyrotechnic updating of The Exorcist and anyone who can identify with this genre of film will find it very, very scary. Those that don’t may just find it a very, very good B movie. It’s certainly very stylishly shot. The ominously moving camera seems to prowl the film’s locations and almost unbearable tension is ramped up by loud, intrusive, suspenseful musical chords. First-time director Ari Aster throws in everything – haunting, demonic possession, ghostly apparitions, seances, pagan gods and spontaneous combustion in almost overwhelming profusion as death and horror are inherited through three generations. Underlying all the supernatural events is a spinal-column thread of how untrammelled, unbearable grief can distort and derail the everyday, as Toni Collette spectacularly dominates the film in a pumped-up, emotionally overwrought, deranged performance.

Hereditary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, had its European Premiere at Sundance London and is released on 15 June 2018 in the UK.

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