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Toni Collette in a scene from the movie Hereditary. (Empire Entertainment)
Toni Collette in a scene from the movie Hereditary. (Empire Entertainment)




4/5 Stars


When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter's family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.


By a weird twist of fate I ended up alone in a cinema watching Hereditary. Just me. Had I known what I know now, I would never voluntarily have gone into the cinema by myself. 

A few days later I got to talk to Toni Collette, who plays the role of Annie Graham in the film, and mentioned to her that I took on the screening solo. She quickly replied; “Oh no, you should never have watched it alone. Always safety in numbers”.

And that would be my advice to anyone reading this review. I’m not necessarily talking about jump-out-of-your-seat type of scary. There is, of course, some of that. But I’m referring to the subtle kind. The kind that creeps up on you unexpectedly and makes your skin crawl as you constantly reposition yourself in your seat.

Hereditary starts with the death of the matriarch of the Graham family. She was a difficult person with a lot of secrets. It’s those secrets that come back to haunt Annie and her entire family as they slowly discover the dark truth and sinister fate that they seem to have inherited. What starts out as a calm and slow film steadily evolves into a spine-chilling and frightful piece of cinema that sinks its dark claws into you and won’t let go even after the end credits start rolling.

One specific scene from the film still haunts me. It must surely be the most disturbing I’ve ever sat through. The “success” – for the lack of a better word - of the scene lies in the way it lingers and refuses to let go of the audience. Instead writer-director Ari Aster deliberately lets it slow down to glacier pace after a breathless flurry of chaos – stretching out the horror to force both viewer and protagonist to truly experience its gut-wrenching trauma.

Apart from taking its time with the most difficult to digest scenes, Hereditary’s other trump card is the phenomenal performance by Collette in the lead role. Critics are rightfully raving over her superb performance that could be seen as a perfect companion piece to her iconic portrayal of Lynn Sear in The Sixth Sense for which she earned an Academy Award nomination. 

Newcomer Aster masterfully extracts superb performances from his cast as he takes on the classic horror elements without exploiting any of the usual clichés. He even expertly sidesteps the tired haunted house elements without having to conjure up the worn-out formulas. He even manages to avoid the over-used demonic elements as the film moves toward a much darker and evil finale.

The success of Hereditary sits in the way it inches to its hellish conclusion whilst spewing pure darkness at those brave enough to watch it. The stuff of nightmares. 


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