Anyone who knows me knows two things – I love horror films and it takes a lot to scare me. There have been films that gave me goosebumps and movies that made me cringe and vocally react to the terror I experienced. That said, no movie in recent memory has genuinely rocked my core and ripped my soul apart like Hereditary.
Starring Toni Collette as Annie Graham, the film focuses on Annie and her family as they mourn the death of Annie’s mother, Ellen. Everyone has different reactions to Ellen’s death, due to how bizarre Ellen was when she was alive. This is particularly true of Annie’s daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Annie struggles with sorrow over Ellen’s death as well as guilt and confusion over how non-reactive she is to it.
Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) tries to be as supportive as he can while watching Annie apparently slowly losing her mind and simultaneously dealing with another tragedy that he refuses to share with Annie for fear it may accelerate her downward spiral. Finally, there is Peter (Alex Wolff) – the son who seems like the most normal member of the family at first, but is revealed to have demons that run far deeper than anyone suspects.
It is hard to write a review for a film like this and keep it spoiler-free, so I will avoid discussing any further plot elements from this point forward. I will say that anyone going in expecting a “BOO! GOTCHA!” horror film will be let down. This is not one of those films. It is more visceral than that. It is haunting. In fact, it is possessive. It possesses your thoughts long after the film is done while you process the sheer terror your eyes and brain just witnessed. It is heavy. It is intense. It is unexpected. It is also going to be very divisive and not for everyone, as it deals with far more serious subjects and situations than your standard “jump-scare” horror flick or thriller.
Toni Collette is a powerhouse actress and she definitely delivers the goods. To see her as a mom who may or may not be losing grip on her sanity is heartbreaking and scary at the same time. Collette is no stranger to horror, with starring turns in such films as The Sixth Sense and Krampus, but her performance here is Oscar-worthy.
That said, if there is a performance that stands out, it is that of Alex Wolff. You cannot help but feel for Peter, who is in a situation that is so out of his control that when everything starts hitting the fan, you want to run through the screen into the world of the movie and save this poor kid from everything that is going on. It is painful and gut-wrenching to see the journey Peter goes through in this film,and Wolff’s performance makes it all seem all too real. Wolff has a promising future ahead of him.
As I said, this film will be divisive. Much in the same vein as The Babadook, The Witch and It Follows. This film preys on your comfort levels and on what you can emotionally handle when it comes to family tragedy. It also digs deep into your soul’s marrow and refuses to let go, even when the film is over.