Hereditary film review: sleepless nights a side-effect


Toni Collette in Hereditary.
Toni Collette in Hereditary.

WANT to feel emotionally tortured and your nerves slowly shredded for 127 minutes straight?

Doesn’t sound like a fun trip to the flicks, but what if we told you that Hereditary is comparable to The Exorcist for its ability to rattle an audience with jarring imagery and troubling thematic substance?

If that is what you are looking for in a horror film, look no further.

Annie Graham (Toni Collette) had an unusual, rocky relationship with her mentally ill mother while she was alive, so her reaction to her death is restrained.

While her family, husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) mourn, the family is struck by an unimaginable tragedy in which another relative dies in a horrific accident.

The family unravels, Peter slips into a catatonic state of depression and Annie’s mental state comes into question; but is it something she inherited from her mother?

She starts dabbling with seances and delving deeper into her work constructing miniatures, some of which recreate family tragedies in gruesome detail.

This deliberately longish and slowly paced horror film is the kind that gets under your skin from the opening shots and chilling score and never lets up.

The admirably achieved and sustained troubling atmosphere is impressively handled by director Ari Aster, who makes his feature film debut.

Collette is phenomenal in a role that requires her to run the gamut of emotions and situations from frazzled and potentially unstable woman whose sanity could be slipping, to fear and paralysing grief.

Even when this film starts to head into what could be deemed schlocky territory (I could not help but think “uh-oh” when the word seance is first uttered), it plays it straight and with conviction, making it even more real.

And Collette’s realistic performance helps sell it.

A side-effect of seeing Hereditary might be sleepless nights, but it is worth the tossing and turning.

THE ESSENTIAL

Hereditary (MA)

Directed by: Ari Aster

Starring: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff

Four and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright

In cinemas June 7