Colby's Critiques

Review: 'Hereditary' offers unique and disturbing metaphor about family

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 6/15/18

While not the “scariest movie of 2018,” as many films have tried to claim, “Hereditary” is one of the most original, macabre and truly disturbing horror films to come out of Hollywood.

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Colby's Critiques

Review: 'Hereditary' offers unique and disturbing metaphor about family

MILLY SHAPIRO plays the disturbing young character Charlie in "Hereditary." In the film, "Charlie," born amid hopes she'd be a boy, was treated as such by her recently deceased grandmother Ellen, whose death is the catalyst for the events of the film.
MILLY SHAPIRO plays the disturbing young character Charlie in "Hereditary." In the film, "Charlie," born amid hopes she'd be a boy, was treated as such by her recently deceased grandmother Ellen, whose death is the catalyst for the events of the film.
AP photo
Posted

While not the “scariest movie of 2018,” as many films have tried to claim, “Hereditary” is one of the most original, macabre and truly disturbing horror films to come out of Hollywood.

My wife and I were very excited to see this film. It’s been marketed as one of the scariest of the year, but come on, most horror movies say that. I truly had my hopes up about “Hereditary” because of its commercials. They were downright scary, and after watching countless horror flicks, I can tell those that are scariest from those that sensationalize their scares all into the trailer. This looked legit, and I have to say, I was surprised, but not disappointed.

The film stars Toni Collette as Annie Graham, a mother of two and wife of Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne. Aside from Annie, her two children play a massive role in the film. Alex Wolff plays Peter, her teenage son, while Milly Shapiro plays Charlie, her slightly odd daughter, who has made her mark on this film famous through the disturbing clucking noise that she makes throughout the promotional trailers.

The film opens to Annie’s mother, Ellen, passing away. While the mother and daughter shared little in common, they also shared little communication, as Annie states in her mother’s eulogy that she barely knew her mother, but that she had her “own little rituals.” Obviously right off the bat, something is off; there are countless people at the funeral that the family has never seen before, but Annie chalks this up to her mother’s secretive life and corresponding associates. Things start to get weird shortly after Ellen’s funeral, as odd Latin words are focused on throughout Charlie’s room. Annie knows that her mother etched them when Charlie was young, but her level of intrigue as to their meaning is disregarded due to the grieving process.

The metaphors in this film abound, as following Ellen’s passing Annie begins attending grief counseling. While there, it is revealed that her mother suffered from dissociative identity disorder; her brother committed suicide after living with paranoid schizophrenia; and her depressive father starved himself to death. Mirroring the support group’s reactions, I immediately knew there was more under the surface of Annie than she initially let on. Without giving too much away, “Hereditary” focuses on two things: mental illness and dark prophecies. While some people may be able to avoid their family’s dark past, in most instances in horror movies they cannot, and the same applies to mental illness. It’s always important to know what sort of mental history your predecessors have, as it could indicate certain things to watch for in your own mental health.

Acting in this film was amazing. Seriously, if you value good acting, “Hereditary” is the film for you. Collette absolutely kills it as the paranoid, manic and depressed Annie, and by the end of the film, she has made a complete metamorphosis fully displaying all the pent-up madness that has been hidden in her bloodline for so long. Due to her mother’s secret life, the burden Ellen carried is now being transferred to Annie, whether she wants it or not.

The plot for this film was actually pretty imaginative. Normally, my wife and I can guess the plot or the big twist in these films, for the most part; not so with “Hereditary.” Also, I really have to give the director credit for thinking outside the box when it comes to the antagonist, as he did extensive research into occult lore and apocryphal texts for this one. Something I find a bit tiresome is when an antagonist is lazily made up just for a film, or a demon is chosen randomly, with no actual traits likened to it than what they create for it. Most directors don’t state the full story behind these monsters, but this director did, and his movie is all the better for it.

Some things I don’t always discuss are the visuals of a film. “Hereditary” was filmed in a way that made me think of “American Horror Story,” which is known for its grandiose shots, camera angles and visuals that make the show unique. I don’t always notice these things except on "AHS" – however, the extra effort made to make this film look good was obvious.

If you want a good, original horror movie, go see “Hereditary.” You may be smarter than me and guess the twist, but I doubt it, at least not to the level of detail that is revealed. Obviously, this film is probably not a great kids’ movie, as the horror elements and graphic visuals can be disturbing to adults, let alone kids. But, definitely check it out. “Hereditary” is rated R for disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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