We all inherit our parent’s genes so the AGF team have always thought that our Editor’s kids are therefore rightly named Adolf and Damian. Hereditary, the terrific feature film debut by writer director Ari Aster, determines that we can’t escape our past and almost goes as far to say that the sins of our father will be visited upon us. It’s a grim outlook and one that underpins Hereditary as well as the devastating impact of grief because here Toni Collete (XXX Return of Xander Cage) is mercilessly put through the emotional wringer with some devastating moments that must have been exhausting. Collete plays Annie mother to Charlie and wife to Peter (Gabriel Byrne) and daughter to Ellen Leigh who is introduced from the start with a newspaper announcement of her death and funeral arrangements.
Annie’s speech at the wake makes clear that she held little affection for her mother but now that she’s gone realises that she misses her. But Aster’s film slowly unfurls revealing secrets as to why she kept her eldest child away from his grandmother in one of many revelations. Aster’s film is scattered with clues which are all drawn together in the latter half as the film builds to its devastating climax.
Grief looms large throughout the film and what moves the plot in an unexpected direction is when she attends a counselling group for those mourning the loss of a loved one where she is befriended by an old friend of her mother’s. It’s a relief after all the trauma and she tries to help Annie through her grieving process. It’s the grief and the unfurling secrets that slowly begins to rip the family apart. Peter, a psychologist, distances himself from it all trying to rationalise it but grows concerned that Annie is in the middle of a break down. Charlie (a brilliantly ethereal Milly Shapiro) isolates herself from making friends finding comfort in her drawings whereas older brother Peter is content to smoke weed with friends in pursuit of a girl he fancies at school.
This is a very deliberately placed film owing much to M Night Shylaman though nowhere near as commercial and at times it is a bit too leisurely There’s no mistaking though that Aster has an eye and an ear for conjuring up some unnerving moments where you’ll find yourself looking at the corner of the frame thinking that there’s something lurking and there usually is all compounded by a brilliantly effective score by Colin Stetson. Right from the start his lo-fi rumbling score is disorientating hinting at menace throughout. Much like Danniella Westbrook’s nose once you notice it you can’t take your eyes off it.
Aster’s film scatters clues throughout as to where this is all going and where it’s going you know is not going to be good but all these visual clues makes the film rewatchable. Hereditary has been likened to a modern day Exorcist but the film owes far more to Rosemary’s Baby and even the films of Mike Leigh and James Wan who gave the horror genre commercial appeal again with films like The Conjuring and Saw and has now moved onto blockbusters. His vacant throne may have found a new occupant.
Here’s the trailer…….