In 2018, one horror movie made an unforgettable splash in the world of cinema: Hereditary. With Toni Collette playing the daughter of the deceased grandmother, the story follows her family who begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry, forcing them to confront a horror that has sinister plans. Without a doubt, Hereditary is one of the best horrors of that respective year. It deviated from the typical mainstream horror by not relying on constant jump scares and unnecessary gore. Instead, Ari Aester wisely focused on the Graham family and the feature becomes a fascinating showcase of a family being torn apart by tragedy.
At the center of that horror is Annie, a grieve-stricken mother who has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Annie has a strained relationship with her husband and son. To be fair, covering your son in paint thinners and threatening to set him on fire can cause a bit of friction within families. At the center of the horror is a family drama that has Annie at war with her family. She’s constantly on edge, taking pills to overcome her nerves and using art as a distraction from the hatred she feels coming towards her son and husband. This role was masterfully performed by Toni Collete, who’s given enough meat to chew on that allows her to shine as an actress.
Take the memorable dinner scene. You can instantly feel the tension in the air between Peter, Steve, and Annie. The sheer quietness of the room as the clock ticks away. The direction of this scene is incredible. This feel like a genuine reaction to how a disgruntled family would act behind closed doors. Peter is her son, so Annie is always going to love him, but she resents him not just because he accidentally killed his sister, but because Peter constantly makes her feel like a horrible mother. The tension slowly builds throughout the scene, with Collette caught in her own world playing with her food until the giant outburst after Peter dishes out some of his anger. This is a masterclass of acting. The little nuances from everyone involved to the speaking patterns from both Peter and Annie, you feel the tension and anger because it all comes across as authentic. Even when Annie says, “All I do is worried and slave and defend you, and all I get back is that f**king face on your face!” This could’ve easily been a comedic line drawing laughter from the crowd, but Collette manages to pull off the dialogue in an organic way that exemplifies her frustration.
However, the dinner scene isn’t the sole reason why Collette should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination. She conveys playing a damaged soul throughout the film and we’re able to understand Annie because Collette performance gets across that she’s in a fragile state. Now, Hereditary is by no means a perfect movie and the supernatural mess that unravels towards the end makes the film a predictable farce, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Though Peter is turned into such a low state that allows Charlie to take over his body, the true terror of Hereditary is the mental damage that reaches its boiling point. Peter is actively convinced that his mother despises him. You understand his point of view. It wasn’t just the fact that she came seconds away from burning him alive, but the story of how Annie tried to have a miscarriage by any means necessary. But you understand Annie’s point of view as well. Peter brought home a headless body of his sister, yet she remains loving of her son despite the tragic incident. Annie is one of the best horror movie characters in the last decade because she’s a strong multi-layered human being. She’s up there with Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse or Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling. It’s a shame the Academy barely recognizes the horror genre entirely. Yes, the genre is packed with plenty of stinkers and forgettable characters but there’s been numerous gems that have come out in recent years that deserved some recognition from Oscar voters. Whether Collette deserved to actually win the Oscar is up for strong debate, though Olivia Colman was definitely a great choice to win the prestigious trophy in 2019. Still, Toni Collette should’ve become the first woman in decades to receive a nomination in a horror movie. Luckily, despite her lack of a nomination, her performance will never be forgotten by anyone who watched the Ari Aester feature.