IronWatcher’s review published on Letterboxd:
Shocktober 2019 # 3
Watched on Blu-Ray
I was an idiot back then to not give this 5 stars.
Are we really free in our choices? Or is our fate predestined from birth? Can we make a choice on our own? Or are we only in the tradition of our ancestors, doomed to make the same mistakes again and again? Questions like these touch on the excellent debut of director Ari Aster. "Hereditary" takes us on a disturbing journey - to where our primeval fears lie buried.
When the grandmother of the Grahams dies, the already shaky family structure is suddenly threatened with collapse. The loss of the stubborn matriarch has more far-reaching consequences than her daughter Annie (Toni Collette) is able to recognize at first. While Annie's husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) is mainly concerned with the family's cohesion, the children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) each deal with the grandmother's death in their own way - but further blows of fate await them all...
Following traces of spoilers:
In "Hereditary" - the opening scene already makes this clear - the construction of one's own reality stands in the foreground. Annie puts this into practice very concretely by building models that are based on her world. The doll's houses can be interpreted as a metaphor for Annie's psychological disorders, which lead to her no longer being able to distinguish between delusion and reality and creating her own reality. At the same time, however, the models also illustrate that the Grahams are severely restricted in their freedom and, like marionettes, must bow to the will of their grandmother, who still pulls the strings from beyond. Religious cult and demon incantations in this context are representative for this delusion, which Annie's mother has fallen for and which now also takes possession of her and her children. While Annie and her daughter Charlie were more often in direct contact with the mentally disturbed grandmother, their influence on Steve and Peter was much smaller. For this reason Steve is the only one in the family who proves to be immune to the disease of the spirit, while it takes at least a long time for Peter to be infected as well.
In a painful way, Aster's film shows that mental illnesses can spread just as quickly as a flu virus. Especially when there are people affected within their own family. Steve tries to be a dormant antithesis to his mother's infected wife, but at some point the point is reached, because he can't face the horrible developments in the family anymore.
"Hereditary" begins as a dark family drama and develops more and more into a horrible occult horror. Aster's production is quite unwieldy, so not every viewer will find an access to the story. Therefore, it will also be decisive how much each individual can take away from the long camera shots of the puppet houses, which alone already anticipate the plot.
"Hereditary" isn't just a ride in a ghost train with a jumpscare lurking around every corner. Rather, the horror here feeds on a psychological level as deep as the roots of a family tree. In any case, the outstanding set design proves to be praiseworthy. The wooden house at the edge of the forest, which the family lives in, and its surroundings are excellently staged. The unusual camera perspectives combined with the rectangular architecture create a feeling of discomfort and isolation right from the start. Aster thus creates a strong alternative to the Overlook Hotel from "Shining" (1980), whose architecture Stanley Kubrick once used in a similarly ingenious way for the horror inside. In addition to the sets and the camera work, the effective sound design also deserves praise. Creaking floorboards, crackling fireplaces and nocturnal rustling are only surpassed by the goose-skinned use of a tongue click.
The cast also delivers strong performances. Led by an Oscar-worthy Toni Collette as a mad mother, over the sovereign Ann Dowd and Gabriel Byrne up to the two excellent young actors Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff, who can transport the changing emotions of their characters thrown from one extreme situation to the next credibly at any time.
Thus "Hereditary" is a truly shocking dance on the edge between imagination and reality, a stirring family drama, as it were, as well as a lesson about mental illness enriched with top black humour. A fearsome descent into the hidden corners of the human soul.
To read my review right after my cinema visit, please click here: boxd.it/t9whH