Before I begin, I feel as though it is important to state that this film is my favorite horror film of 2018. Hereditary (2018) was written and directed by Ari Aster and stared Toni Collette (a whole woman, okay), Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff, and Gabriel Byrne. This film has some majorly emotional themes and explores the darkest pain that can be felt by any human. Prepare yourself for the emotional rollercoaster that is this film. Now, let us commence review.
Hereditary (2018) primarily revolves around the grief a family suffers from once Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother passes away. The film progresses with the death of Charlie (Milly Shapiro) in the presence of Peter (Alex Wolff) and the desperation Annie faces when her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne) does little to assist her in this time of despair. Finally, the film concludes with the friendship between Annie and Joan (Ann Dowd) and the devastating aftermath that ensues from their relationship.
The central theme of this film is grief. I feel as though Aster did an incredible job of attempting to showcase the confusion that comes with mental illness and demonic activity or possession, along with the extent that grieving parents will go to in order to contact their children that were taken from them unexpectedly. Aster also compellingly illustrates the complication that can take place in a family when one family member blames another family member for the loss of their child.
This film made a strong impression on me, and this I cannot deny. I realized that the situation created for the family in this film was so believable and thought-provoking, it shook me to my very core. I began to think that, yes, it is possible for a women to lose both her mother and one of her children in a short period of time. And, yes, it is possible that the other members of that mother’s household may not be able to share that same pain and emotional trauma that the coupled losses would have on her. Finally, yes, it is not difficult to believe that there are troubles accepting guilt and blame for things that you could have done to prevent the loss of that child.
Let’s just be real. Toni Collette is AMAZING, especially in this film. She deserves an Oscar. Collette portrays the grief of a mother in a way that I believed that this is how many grieving mothers would feel and act. I do not claim to know wha grieving mothers go through on a daily basis, but this portrayal made me believe that I was feeling the same emotions Annie felt and shared similar frustrations.
As for the other characters, Peter was a bit of a stereotypical teenage boy to me. This might have made his character seem more realistic to some, but being only 22 years of age, I saw Peter being displayed as what Hollywood wants teenaged boys to be seen as rather than what his character could have had the potential to be. Milly Shapiro was BORN to play the part of Charlie in this film, and the part of Charlie was MADE for her. If you have seen this film, you will agree. Tell me I’m wrong. Finally, Steve (Gabriel Byrne) was a bit odd to me. I have a difficult time believing that a father and husband could be that unsupportive of his wife and mother of his children, but again, I do not claim to be a mother or understand these circumstances.
It is extremely important to discuss the cinematography in this film. Throughout the film, we see Annie is building a doll house with rooms that are similar to the ones that in her own home, including exact furniture placement and figurines of her family. Scenes taking place in the home are filmed as if you were looking inside of a doll house at eye view, one room at a time. This technique made me feel confined and enveloped in each and every scene, making the home feel suffocatingly small and each member of the household to look confined. It also made me feel as though the actions of the family were being manipulated by a higher power or an outside force, and that everything was predetermined. Transitions between scenes were smooth but choppy. I mean by this the transitions between scenes were similar to viewing a room in a dollhouse at eye level and then looking at the room next to it next. You were in one room, then you were not. The film does a great job at making it appear that the transitions between scenes are similar to viewing more than one room in a dollhouse.
I would also like to point out the way that the night changes to day or visa versa when the outside of the house in filmed. The way changing levels of daylight are portrayed are not gradual, but are instant, as if a snap of the fingers would change night to day or day to night. I do not know what the intended significance of this was, but it allowed the film to progress at a significantly faster pace.
The film was made even more believable and realistic by the lack of special effect use. Yes, there were some special effects in the film, but just the perfect amount. I did not feel like I was in a world where the special effects were so extremely relied upon that the film would not have been possible without them. I appreciated this.
Overall, this film is an expert piece of cinema and one that I know I will never be able to compare or forget. The stillness of the film illustrates the stillness of life that grieving humans suffer through, and expertly showcases the speed at which life moves during those times. Dialogue was necessary and believable, characters were supportive, and the film does not focus on one scene for longer than necessary. Genius.