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A Review of Hereditary

Updated on June 17, 2018
Gareth P Barsby profile image

Gareth Barsby is a graduate of the University of Chester who writes many short stories, poems and reviews.

Annie Graham (Toni Collette), a creator of artistic dioramas and dollhouses, is having some family problems. Not only is her son Peter (Alex Wolff) an irresponsible slacker, but her thirteen-year-old daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) has been acting very strangely, especially ever since Annie’s mother died. Now Charlie has been creating strange-looking toys, cut off a pigeon’s head and has been seeing visions of Annie’s mother, and things only get worse and more gruesome when she ends up accompanying Peter to a party.

Hereditary may seem more of the same on first glance; audiences have seen enough of the “creepy little girl” archetype from The Shining, The Ring and others. This film, however, should not be dismissed. There’s a little girl acting strange, but that is only a prelude to worse things to come. Charlie is not only making strange toys just to take a page from the playbook of Toy Story’s Sid.

Hereditary is also a film that knows the horror genre and knows what really scares and disturbs people. The jumpscares are kept to a minimum, and the film is dominated by an oppressive, uncomfortable atmosphere. Music is seldom used, with most of the soundtrack either being a low drone or a deathly silence, and the use of sudden, abrupt transitions creates a surreal effect that works in the film’s favour.

The surreality of the film helps emphasise the more realistic moments as well. Like The Babadook, this is a supernatural thriller where the real horror lies not in the ghosts and ghouls, but the elements more akin to what we face in the real world. Annie’s troubled conversations with her family and her growing frustrations are portrayed perfectly, especially during a vicious dinnertime confrontation with her son, making a frightening scenario all the more horrific.

Hereditary is both fantastically-acted and directed, creating a strange, dreamlike film that is sure to haunt and disturb.

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