**** out of five stars
One of the most celebrated horror films of the year, Hereditary tells the story of a family haunted by hallucinations of dead loved ones and plagued by a secret curse.
Miniaturist artist Annie Graham (played by Toni Collette) and her family encounter some strange events following the death of her manipulative and secret mother Ellen. Annie even attends a support group after having visions of her late mother. Things get far worse when her son Peter (Alex Wolff) takes his sister Charlie (Milly Shapiro) to a party, and she perishes in a freak car accident. Now Peter witnesses hallucinations of Charlie, and his mother’s attitude towards him becomes increasingly hostile. Joan (Ann Dowd), a member of Annie’s support group, teaches Annie how to communicate with Charlie via séance. But things get stranger, and when Annie discovers that both Joan and her mother seem to have been members of a cult, she gets suspicious. Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) believes she has gone insane, but by then, it may be too late.
Hereditary can be seen as a blurring of two distinct supernatural horror subgenres. The earlier portion of the movie is more psychological, as characters experience ghastly visions, neither they nor the viewers are sure what is real or not. As the supernatural cult subplot comes in towards the last act of the film, one is reminded of films like Rosemary’s Baby. And the contemporary haunted house setting calls to mind the Poltergeist and Amityville movies.
Hereditary is not for the faint of heart. While not overly graphic, there is still plenty of shocking imagery to be seen. The death of the child character Charlie will probably be the most disturbing element for viewers. For those that can stomach the scares, Hereditary is a well-made film on every level. The film has a good blend of visceral jump scares and more evenly-paced, atmospheric moments. The cast is absolutely wonderful, and you really care about these characters. The visual effects are quite convincing, and with a $10 million budget Hereditary continues in the long history of (relatively) smaller-budgeted horror films with big artistry. Since Annie makes miniatures as a living, there is a dollhouse aesthetic to the film’s visuals, adding to the creepiness.
Hereditary is a chilling ghost story for today. For horror fans, it is a must-see. It seamlessly combines the psychological horror, haunted house and occult themes into one fantastically eerie package. Just be careful if you hear any tongue-clicking sounds.