Hereditary ★★★★½

Original, ominous & overpowering, Hereditary is a horror of the unspeakable kind. Filled with dread from the first frame to the last, bolstered by stellar performances from its cast, and amplifying its foreboding aura by making all the aspects work in harmony, this unnerving, unsettling & uncanny chiller is a nerve-rattling portrait of a family tragedy that curdles into a horrifying nightmare.

The story of Hereditary is set into motion when the matriarch of the Graham family passes away. A secretive & private woman who had private rituals, private friends & private anxieties, her death triggers strange, disturbing & otherworldly occurrences within the Graham household which ultimately leads the family to unravel cryptic & increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.

Written & directed by Ari Aster, his first attempt at feature filmmaking yields a result one expects from an auteur in prime form, plus the restraint his direction exhibits further points to his prodigious powers. His decision to focus on the family dynamic pays huge dividends as he touches on themes of loss, grief & mourning with such care that we are invested in the characters long before things go awry for them.

There's no denying that Aster's direction exudes both confidence & composure but his writing also showcases his understanding of the genre. The mysterious family portrait he paints here is utterly convincing which in turn makes their predicament all the more effective & harrowing for the viewers. The final moments aren't as strong as events preceding it but on subsequent viewings, it does fit the narrative structure.

The technical aspects work in tandem to deliver an experience that's as unique as it is unforgettable, be it the dollhouse aesthetic of its set pieces or the slow, menacing camerawork that helps establish a sinister atmosphere that's absolutely relentless. The slow, stealthy pace at which the drama unfolds instils darkness of its own while its eerie score is so aptly intertwined with its brilliant sound design that it turns many segments into a blood-curdling scenario.

Coming to the acting department, Hereditary stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne & Milly Shapiro as a family haunted after the death of their matriarch. Collette navigates into her character's psyche & renders her emotional breakdown with such fervour & viciousness that it is amongst the strongest performances of the year, and certainly her career-best. Shapiro's on-screen presence is freakish in itself plus it is impossible to look elsewhere when she is on screen.

On an overall scale, Hereditary is the scariest film of 2018 and is an amalgamation of assured direction, deft writing, impeccable cinematography, terrific performances, methodical editing, neat sound design & spine-tingling soundtrack. One of the best films of the year and certainly amongst the most accomplished works of the decade, this modern-day horror masterpiece is so powerful, affecting & genuinely terrifying that it will make your blood run cold. Strongly recommended.

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