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Over the last few years, we’ve seen some outstanding horror films making waves with both audiences and critics, including Get Out, The Babadook and It.
We’re certainly in a golden age of horror and the upcoming release of Hereditary will see the genre reach new heights.
Nothing can prepare the world for the arrival of Ari Aster’s film, one of the most deeply unsettling and terrifying films since 1973’s classic The Exorcist.
When Aster’s feature-length directorial debut premiered at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, people were left screaming and crying in their seats, proclaiming it’s the scariest horror film in years.
While you may think this is an exaggeration and overreaction, trust me, it’s not!
Hereditary isn’t just a horror film; it’s truly twisted, deeply emotional and chillingly disturbing as it digs into our deepest fears, leaving our hearts pounding from beginning to end, unable to escape from the trauma.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about Hereditary is, at first, it’s seemingly a powerful drama examining grief, loss and family.
Solely focusing on the Graham family, the film follows Toni Collette’s Annie, as she faces loss after the death of her mother, Ellen, from cancer.
As Annie and her family attempt to cope with their grief, they begin to unravel and soon descend into hell as they try to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.
Writer and director Aster’s decision to focus on a grieving family is nothing less than genius, as it allows the audience to access the story and emotionally connect with the characters.
We become invested in the Graham’s journey of grief, meaning we stick with the film when its full terrors are unleashed, despite how alienating and bizarre it may become.
Credit also has to go to the spectacular cast who bring to life Aster’s intriguingly complex characters.
At the centre is Collette’s award worthy performance as Annie, a matriarch struggling to keep her family together, who represses her emotions and anxieties, often physically, into the series of miniature figures and doll houses she creates.
If I described Collette’s performance as raw, gut-wrenching and anguished, I wouldn’t be doing it justice. Her agonising screams are filled with emotional pain and will haunt your nightmares for weeks.
While she’s done some remarkable work in the past, Collette really lets loose, being given a chance to shine by Aster. Thus, I believe she delivers the performance of her career.
Despite the brilliance of Collette’s central performance, the other cast members are not overshadowed – each bringing something different to the table.
While Gabriel Byrne’s Steve is subdued and patient, the way he quietly watches the world around him fall to pieces is chilling in itself.
And then there’s the film’s breakout stars, Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff.
Newcomer Shapiro ensures Charlie isn’t just your average creepy horror child. Despite her unique hobby of making disturbing figurines, there’s clearly a lot more going on, leaving the audience unsure as to whether Charlie is connected to the horrific events or just another victim of the nightmare.
Wolff’s Peter meanwhile is the exact opposite. While he may appear to be a completely normal teenager pursuing romances and getting stoned with his friends, he has dark secrets of his own.
Peter’s relationship with his mother, Annie, is particularly fascinating and something you can analyse over and over again on repeated viewings.
Unlike other horror films Hereditary, thankfully, doesn’t rely on jump scares – the terrors are always present, quietly lurking in the background.
Aster continually plays games with us, leaving audiences questioning whether it really is just a coat on the back of a chair, what is a nightmare and what is real and who is that in the back of the room?
Hereditary takes advantage of one of our worst fears – uncertainty. It leaved us dreading whatever’s coming next, especially since the events of the film continually escalate out of control.
Towards the end, despite how much you want to look away from the screen as the intensity becomes almost too much to bear, you can’t help but by drawn in by Hereditary‘s pure wickedness, which leaves you longing to know more.
We’re quite literally drawn into Hereditary from the very beginning. A beautifully fluent tracking shot through a dolls’ house takes us into the Graham’s home.
While Colin Stetson’s unnerving score and the grey cinematography warns us of the troubles to come, we can’t help but be completely absorbed.
It’s been a while since a horror film has taken me in the same way as Hereditary did, thus despite how horrifying it is, I’ll want to go back to the Graham’s world to feel the shudders and torment again.
If you see one film this year, make sure it’s Hereditary. Deliciously twisted, cruelly wicked and chilling to the core, it’s horror at its very best.
Just be warned, there’s no escape from the terrors after you’ve seen it.
Hereditary creeps into US theatres June 8 and UK cinemas a week later, June 15
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