Hereditary follows a family of four that is going through an awkward period of grieving following the death of an estranged grandmother. As the mother (Toni Collette) attempts to hold it together with her family, darkness and tragedy envelopes the home and threatens to tear them apart.
The last time a movie was hyped this hard via word-of-mouth was either It Follows or The Witch. The former was underwhelming to Efrit where the latter was underwhelming to me, but neither blew our minds or spooked our desensitized hearts. Hereditary, I feared, would do the same.
It's not all about scares, it's about originality, symbolism and atmosphere, and for the most part Hereditary dominates in these arenas. Where the film lacks in traditional/standard horror concepts, it makes up for with unrelenting atmosphere. It's disturbing and unsettling from beginning to end to the point of exhaustion for the viewer. It's emotionally and spiritually brutal.
This movie is all about subtlety in its approach, both in its visuals and much of its storytelling. I am a huge fan of peripheral horror, with things lurking out of focus or in the background of quick camera pans. And this movie is full of it. So much in fact, that I think the movie is worth a second watch just to try and catch more. You start to feel like you're going crazy, just like our characters.
Toni Collette was amazing as the lead, but was also surrounded by a fantastic cast including Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne rounding out the family. They carry the weight of the heavy subject matter that is one part horror and one part super-dark teen drama (though it never feels the part).
I can't say that I found this movie to be the scariest movie in a decade, but perhaps it's simple enough to say that it was the scariest movie this year thus far. It is certainly a masterclass in cinematography and storytelling, using a great script and strong acting chops to carry the foreboding atmosphere through to the end. I certainly found it more impactful than It Follows and The Witch, giving a more fluid and clean approach to a respectable style of horror.