Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” is one of the only two movies that have left my jaw hanging open for over five minutes straight. Halfway through the movie, I was speechless, which is a big feat in and of itself.
The first half of the movie is filled with a lingering feeling of doom that makes you wonder when the “scary” part of the movie will start. This slow burn can turn some classic horror movie fans off, but I think that slow burn is the movie’s biggest strength. The beginning of the movie sets up the broken family dynamic which allows for the terrifying elements of the film to come out through the family drama that ensues. This choice to format the film as more of a family drama rather than a horror movie allows for the horror elements to feel more natural and believable.
As this movie takes a while to get to the “scary parts,” “Hereditary” can feel like it drags a bit in the beginning of the second act. During a second or third watch, however, all the elements that seemed unimportant in the beginning hint at the overarching story of the occult and bring the story full circle. Each small detail points toward the family’s inability to escape the cursed destiny that their matriarch created for them. The true terror of “Hereditary” is the characters’ lack of free will and how they cannot stop fate from tearing their family apart.
The cinematography follows the theme of the slowly creeping story and allows the audience to feel like they are simply watching these terrors occur from an unbiased perspective. The camera movements that show all the action unfold in front of you also give the audience the same feeling as the characters: that they can only watch as they unwillingly follow their doomed destiny.
Unlike a typical horror movie, “Hereditary” does not leave the audience scared of walking through their dark house at night. Instead, the movie leaves the viewers to sit and contemplate their own family dynamic and how terrifying it would be to be trapped in a destiny that only leads to your destruction. This movie contemplates the reality of free will in a way that makes the aftermath of the movie fill the audience’s mind with philosophical questions about the meaning of their existence, which in my opinion, is scarier than any physical monster could be.
The horrific props in “Hereditary” are so realistic that they burn into the audience’s mind as the most memorable parts of the film. The jarring realism in the bloody decapitated bodies scarred me just as much as the damning questions of free will. The terrifying gore mixed with the existential dread is what makes “Hereditary” a successful horror movie that stays with you long after the credits roll.
Filmnetic Grade: A-