The assemblage of an incredible cast — Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff and Toni Collette especially — makes this a terrific film.
"Hereditary" is a skillfully crafted horror story, rife with terror that continuously bubbles just beneath the surface. It manages to balance cryptic and creepy with alarming precision, leaving audiences delightfully frightened.
When the matriarch of the Graham family dies, strange and traumatic circumstances begin to play out with devastating effects. The 13-year-old daughter (Milly Shapiro) walks about as though she's in a constant trance and begins to indulge in disturbing acts. The mother, Annie (Toni Collette), is in a state of shock but also somewhat relieved that her far from normal mother has passed. Husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne), seems distant and oblivious to what is occurring, while their teenage son (Alex Wolff) smokes weed.
All of a sudden things get gory and gruesome as family secrets begin to emerge. The mysterious evolves into twisted and shocking behavior by each of the Graham clan. When Annie hooks up with a woman (Ann Dowd) from a bereavement therapy group, literally all hell breaks loose.
In his first feature film, director-writer Ari Aster is up to the task of scaring your socks off on a par with those who have been in the business for decades. His methodical and intellectual approach in making a horror film is intensely unsettling. He chooses to explore the guilt and grief that this unfortunate family is experiencing with compassion while, simultaneously, making your skin crawl. Spooky scoring is spot-on, enhancing his use of inventive camera angles while shooting.
But his assemblage of an incredible cast is what makes "Hereditary" a terrific watch. Milly Shapiro (in her first feature film) delivers such a weird and capable performance, it's almost difficult to witness. Alex Wolff also gives an utterly eerie portrayal of a tortured soul, riddled with inconsolable remorse.
However, it's Toni Collette's unbridled unraveling as a mother who's searching for answers, that packs the most powerful punch. Spiraling into insanity has never been so cringe worthy to behold. She leaves us wondering if Annie is a monster or a victim. It's the performance of a lifetime.
"Hereditary" is not for the faint of heart. This year it "was widely acclaimed as the most terrifying film" at the Sundance Film Festival. So beware, it will haunt your dreams.