Director Ari Aster's immaculately crafted, black-hearted, horror-in-the-home fantasia "Hereditary" eerily keeps you glued to the screen.
The film is atmospheric with the right blend of exasperation, humour and a large dose of horror. Despite a conventional plot which is full of details that anticipate the flow with great intelligence while escaping the convention of the horror genre successfully, the film builds upon a new style more inclined to the arthouse.
What makes the film so engrossing is that at the core, it is a family drama that is accentuated to incomprehensible levels. The director raises the tension without falling completely into the territory typical of any horror film. Through a spiritualistic ritual in the narrative, the film exposes its true nature of a traditional plot. But, it also brings to the fore, a conversation about the horrors of mental health, and how they can affect offspring in many ways.
The film begins with the death of Ellen, Graham's grandmother and how her daughter, Annie (Toni Collette) deals with her departure after a life marked by a tortuous relationship. This forms the crux of the tale.
Ellen's death affects every member of the family in different ways, although the one who seems most distressed is Charlie (Milly Shapiro), Annie's thirteen-year-old daughter, who had grown up almost closer to her grandmother than her own mother.
At first, it simply seems that the grandmother could have with the granddaughter the relationship she never had with her own daughter, but quickly a more gloomy connection is glimpsed, once Charlie's existence is cut short. Those who seem least affected are Peter (Alex Wolff), the eldest son and Annie's husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne).
Every character is well-chiselled and performed to perfection. Milly Shapiro while behaving strangely as Charlie, is extraordinary. Your heart goes out to her in a heart-breaking and unusual turn of events, which is executed with jaw-dropping brilliance. Alex Wolff holds your attention with an equally intense performance as the older brother, especially because he happens to become the focus of the film as the plot progresses.
Toni Collette as Annie is a true force of nature. She portrays all the possible emotions of a destroyed mother and all that she is capable of doing while trying to keep going despite having a fractured psyche. Her commendable performance is what elevates the intriguing factor of the film, because the entire second act is basically about how she loses apparent contact with reality and how her actions deteriorate her standing before the eyes of her husband, which is not frightening but desperate and sad.
Gabriel Byrne plays her supporting husband and a traditional concerned father with restraint.
As mentioned earlier, the director does not spoon feed you with all the tropes of the horror genre. Instead, he makes you experience every scene painfully so that they register in your mind. The camera work without much frills, straight-cut edits and ominous sound design elevates the viewing experience.
Overall, the film, despite its crazy supernatural and classically mythological streak satisfies you as an intense family drama.