By Alex Burt
Titan Shout President
When the mentally ill matriarch of the Graham family passes away from dementia, the members of the family – miniature artist Annie (Toni Colette), her psychiatrist husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff), and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) — mourn differently. Throughout their grieving process, no one realizes that they are haunted by tragic and disturbing events. They do not know how to cope with the emotional trauma or loss of the grandmother and soon spiral into their own version of madness and hell that have been passed down through past generations.
The first film from writer/director Ari Aster, 2018’s Hereditary is an exercise in psychological horror. Though the occult features in Graham family lore, much of the tension comes from the dysfunctional family’s inability to cope with mental illness, grief, loss, and death. Characters are paralyzed by fear and guilt, leaving them vulnerable to an outside force that takes over and guides them on a hellish journey.
From reactions to loss to, eventually, complete breakdowns, the actors deliver strong performances. However, they aren’t left to carry the film’s emotional burden alone. The music matches the movie in its dark and depressing tones. The camera switches from scene to scene, and Aster’s choice of angles in key moments – a dramatic suicide, an unsettling possession — heightens the impact.
All told, Aster does an excellent job in telling this story. It’s a relatable family tragedy that grows into something more shocking and sinister as its characters unravel.
Zac Goldstein contributed to this review.