'Hereditary' review: I lost sleep over this movie last night

Hereditary

And I'll lose even more sleep if Toni Collette isn't nominated for Best Actress.

The trailers for Hereditary all say that this is the scariest movie of the year and is up there with The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby.

Honestly, that might be an understatement.

Hereditary is a new horror film released under the A24 banner from first-time director Ari Aster. I don’t know much about who Aster is as a person, but I am now terrified to think about what must go on inside this guy’s head in order to conjure up something like this.

We’re going to keep plot details vague because, trust me, the best way to experience this movie is to just walk into the theater and actually see it.

Annie Graham (Toni Collette) just lost her mother due to some unnamed illness. The two of them were never all that close, really. In fact, they found themselves at odds most of the time, and more often than not Annie would tell herself that she hated her mom.

credit: YouTube

That was never really true, though. Deep down, she loved her mother, which she only realized after it was already too late.

It’s not too late to tell the rest of her family that. Her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff) and 13-year-old daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) are all the most important thing in Annie’s life, and she’s not about to let them slip through her fingers either.

Annie does keep busy around the house, though. She’s something of an artist who makes these mini-figures and models of everyday, ordinary things. Right now, she’s working on a rather large project — one that curiously resembles the house the Graham family is currently living in — that will be sold to a museum.

While working on this project, Annie begins to see things out of the corner of her eye. Nothing too earth-shattering or horrifying, at least not at first. Just something that quick darts away, often to the upstairs attic which is where all of her mother’s belongings are being kept.

Hereditary
credit: YouTube

She isn’t the only one noticing these things. Charlie, who always had a special kind of connection to her grandmother when she was younger, has begun acting a lot stranger and Peter….well, Peter is going through some stuff too.

And we’re going to leave it at that. The rest of the plot details you have to find out for yourself when you go see the movie — which you should totally do.

If you can handle it, that it, because Hereditary isn’t something for horror lightweights.

That is to say, you have to admire and, at least somewhat, understand the genre in order to really appreciate Hereditary as well. This isn’t a movie like It or Insidious, where ghosts and demons pop out at you and everyone in the theater jumps and laughs together. Hereditary is stripping away all of the fun of those horror movies and is purposefully trying to unsettle you.

Hereditary
credit: YouTube

That’s something that, I think, the horror genre needs. It was one of my favorite movies of last year, but it also appeals to a pretty wide audience. Hereditary wants to strip that audience down — this is a movie that’s only for those who are willing to put the time into it and can fully appreciate all the different levels it’s working on.

There are a lot of those levels. For the first half of the movie, it plays out more like a family drama rather than a horror movie. Luckily, Ari Aster can do this with great prestige, as the mystery surrounding the Graham family is one that constantly keeps you at the edge of your seat (and you’ll never guess where it winds up going).

There’s also this creepy, ominous feeling Hereditary has right from the opening frame. The house that the Graham family lives in is one with a lot of open space and the camera is never afraid to stop and linger there, as if there’s something hiding in the shadows, watching us.

Hereditary
credit: YouTube

Sometimes this is done just to emit a certain mood but sometimes there actually is something off in the corner, and it takes a minute to actually see it. There’s one scene in particular with a very subtle scare like this — there’s just something hiding in the shadows that you don’t register at first — but once you do its instant fear. In the screening I was in, you could actually hear people scream or jump when they realized this thing was there, which was beyond cool to witness.

Once things do heat up in the third act — and hoo boy do they — it all works so perfectly because Hereditary takes it’s time setting everything up. We care about the characters, we’re figuring out the mystery for ourselves (although, there is some voice-over narration at the very end from Ann Dowd that I could have done without, as it spells out things I as an attentive audience member had already figured out) and we’re stuck in this terrible situation along with the protagonist.

And we need to give some further praise to some of those characters because there are some incredible performances here. I know it’s early in the year and all, but Toni Collette has just locked herself a Best Actress nomination and is the current front-runner to win. Again, not spoiling anything, but there’s so much involved with her character and so much she has to do — as she plays into emotions like grief and suppression, which is what Hereditary is in large part about.

Hereditary
credit: YouTube

The supporting cast does just as good. Gabriel Byrne is always a welcome presence and he does great as the one who’s trying to keep his cool here, Milly Shapiro knows how to be creepy without ever having to actually say that much and Alex Wolff knocks it out of the park as he’s given a lot more to do than you might initially expect.

A lot of people are indeed comparing Hereditary to The Exorcist, and I don’t think that necessarily is all that fair of a comparison. There are two other horror movies I would compare this to, but I won’t name them for spoiler's sake. Also, I think Hereditary is a scarier movie than The Exorcist. Yeah, I said it.

The whole thing doesn’t just rely on scares though — this is a sharply crafted movie that’ll keep you guessing the whole time, with some firm points to make. Hereditary just shot itself up to become one of the best movies of 2018, as you aren’t ready for all the secrets it holds.

Watch the trailer for Hereditary here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the movie!

'Hereditary' review: I lost sleep over this movie last night
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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