Run time: 127 Mins
Director: Ari Aster
Cast: Toni Colette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd
Synopsis: When Ellen, the secretive matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter Annie her husband and their two children begin to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. Soon they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited
With his feature debut, writer-director Ari Aster unleashes a nightmare vision of domestic breakdown that exhibits the craft and precision of a nascent auteur, transforming a familial tragedy into something more ominous and deeply disquieting, and pushing the horror movie onto chilling new terrain, with its shattering portrait of heritage gone to hell.
A meticulously crafted slow burn horror, Hereditary is psychological, intellectual, supernatural and allegorical.
The film boasts the welcome return of Toni Colette [The Sixth Sense (1999); Little Miss Sunshine (2006); Muriel’s Wedding (1994)], who is mesmerising as Annie, an artist who makes miniature scenes and is a conflicted and somewhat unloving bereaved daughter.
Gabriel Byrne [Lies We Tell (2017); Mad to Be Normal (2017); In Treatment (TV, 2008-10); Miller’s Crossing (1990)] is Steve the dutiful husband and father of a frequently stoned, adolescent son Peter (Alex Wolff) and grandmother’s favourite, the affectless 13-year-old, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), all of whom are soon battling internal and external demons in this unnerving tale.
The film excels in every area – with unforgettable portrayals of grief, guilt and a dysfunctional family from the ensemble cast; a traumatising, eldritch atmosphere coming from a masterful use of light, shadows and focus courtesy of master cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski; and an equally ethereal score from Colin Stetson which puts powerful sound design at the centre of a relentless, punishing story.
The incomparable Ann Dowd [The Handmaiden’s Tale (TV, 2017- ); The Leftovers (TV, 2014-17)] is Joan, an apparently benevolent older woman and harbinger of much worse to come.
An assured, elegant debut, Hereditary is overpoweringly claustrophobic and sinister – particularly in its dolls’ house aesthetic – with some debts clearly owed to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973)
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