Is Hereditary Overrated?

One of the most talked-about horror films in 2018 was Ari Aster’s Hereditary, starring Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress Toni Collette (Enough Said, Knives Out), Alex Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Pig), and Ann Dowd (St. Vincent, The Drop), the film is about the Graham family, whose life begins to unravel after their grandmother mysteriously passes away. Upon release, the horror movie was met with high critical praise, hailing the feature as chilling, disturbing. and ground-breaking. So with all the huge praise that this film has received, is it well earned? Let’s peel back the layers of Hereditary and explore whether this 2018 horror flick is truly deserving of its praise.

First things first, the incredible and powerhouse performance of Toni Collette should be reinstated here. The Emmy winner is simply fantastic throughout the entire film; Whether it’s pain, sorrow, happiness, or anger, Collette gives an unforgettable raw performance that can’t be denied. Of course, that dinner scene with Collette, Wolff, and Gabriel Byrne is legendary. It just isn’t due to the fact Collette loses her s**t during this wonderful stage of events; however, it’s the emotions behind it that really make this scene pack a punch. The Graham family is pretty much a broken mess. Steve is at his wit’s end with Annie. Peter accidentally beheads his sister. Annie is currently dealing with the weight of the world on her shoulders. You can feel the frustration and tension-packed in this scene, even before Annie starts talking down to Peter. The constant sneering from Peter, or the uneasiness in Steve’s body language. This scene is a masterclass on how to block actors. The words Annie shout pack so much more of a punch because of the obvious signs of emotions displayed before that big blow-up. The acting is tremendous and it may not be a particularly scary scene; however, this continues the slow build of tension that ultimately culminates into the final act.

Speaking of Peter beheading his sister, this was easily the most shocking moment in the film. Some of this has to do with clever marketing. In the trailer, the grandmother’s death is highlighted, so when they showcase the funeral scene of Annie relentlessly crying, it never dawns on the audience that it’s Charlie’s funeral because the focus was on the grandmother. It appeared that Charlie would be the problem child throughout the film, so when that jaw-dropping moment took place, it was hard to not truly get invested in Hereditary. Once again, the acting was top-notch by both Wolff and Milly Shapiro. The moment following the accidental death really helps make the scene. How do you even go home after committing such a crime? Again, all the early stuff isn’t necessarily horror, but that’s the beauty of Hereditary. The film doesn’t go for cheap jump scares or immediately gets into the core of the story. It does something that many horror films rarely do: it focuses on the characters before getting to the horror aspect. The film does pack some horror elements throughout, but the incredible drama of the Graham family is what keeps you glued to the scenes. If there’s one criticism is the lack of a meaningful role of Ann Dowd. Sure, The Leftovers actress plays a significant part in an overall arc; however, she really isn’t given much to do nor is there much insight on her character. This is more of a nitpick as you understand her motivations as the film unravels, but given the level of talent regarding the role, she could’ve had something a bit meatier.

Hereditary is by no means perfect and the supernatural elements aren’t exactly original or new; however, that doesn’t bring down the film in the slightest. Every idea or premise has been done in the movie landscape. Ari Aster finds a different way to approach this subject and knocks it out of the park with ease. Is Hereditary the scariest film you’ll ever see? No. The first portion of the film is all about the build to the climax. Once Steve bursts into flames, that’s when the horror aspect truly comes into play, and the entire third act comes together thanks to the slow-burning approach in the first two acts. There’s nothing particularly surprising about what happens to Peter, though the images and messages do leave a lasting impression. Hereditary isn’t exactly a mainstream horror film, so it’s understandable that some audiences wouldn’t be into this type of horror because it doesn’t care about racking up a body count or delivering heavy amounts of gore. Hereditary is a really good film. It’s not the best you’ll ever see, but it’s definitely one of the best that’s come out in the last few years.

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