Hereditary ★★★★★

Hereditary. 2018. Directed by Ari Aster.

Ari Aster knows how to write an original screenplay that hooks the audience right away. In Hereditary (2018), he invested our feelings in the Graham family immediately by putting up the obituary at the beginning of the film. In addition, we are shown Ellen Taper Leigh (Kathleen Chalfant) the grandmother and great matriarch of the family’s slow decline into death and Annie’s (Toni Collette) grieving over her lost mother. Moreover, we are shown her love of her granddaughter Charlie (Millie Shapiro) and then, we are shown the tragic accident that kills Charlie. The narrative completely had us in its grip and after shedding a few tears we were in for a hell of a ride. But, there is so much more packed into this screenplay than meets the eye. The simplicity and complexity of a spider’s web written in ancient esoterica is spun into the actions, dialogues, and monologues that are acted in the most convincing way.

Aster’s horror disguised as a family drama is competition for the best horror movies made. Hereditary has esoteric foreshadowing that is first shown as a ornament on Ellen’s necklace and Annie’s necklace. As the film progresses, we see this ornament (crown) more and more. The set design with miniatures and full scale models of the family home is brilliant. Annie is a miniature artist who has married her beloved psychiatrist, Steve (Gabriel Byrne). The miniatures show foreshadowing and what has happened with Ellen. Furthermore, Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is into making effigies that are cool and disgusting on like a Jeffrey Dahmer level. Aster’s deep level of research resulted in the actors having sets and days where they could lose themselves in the respective parts. One of my favorite actors in this film, and they are all above par, is Alex Wolff portraying Peter. We had not seen him act since The Fault in Our Stars (2014). Wolff deserved a great deal of respect and accolades for his performance but nevertheless was not recognized. Toni Collette and Ann Dowd were phenomenal as well. Dowd (Joan) never disappoints when it comes to horror. She can be as creepy or loving as you would want her to be if one was a director. 

Overall, the pacing, the acting, the sets, the direction, and the narrative came together as if the stars were aligned for Ari Aster’s Hereditary. It is A24’s second highest grossing film after Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022). The result of Aster’s labor is an instant horror classic the relied on so little cgi and post production work because he had thought of almost everything. The character development coupled with family history, jump scares, and THAT ENDING! Dang, who could ask for a better freshmen entry into horror film making with an original screenplay.

As a point in my writing, I tend to relate auteurs to other auteurs. Aster is definitely influenced by Brian de Palma as he has stated that “Carrie (1976) was a film that scared me as a child.” He also included Peter Greenaway in the same interview and specifically referred to, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover (1989). However, I believe Aster has carved his own niche in the horror genre. Hereditary and Midsommar (2019) are completely unique. Robert Eggers thanked Ari Aster in the credits of The Northman (2022) for his inspiration. Aster is a singular force and we look forward to seeing many more films by him. Disappointment Blvd. is an upcoming comedy, drama, horror, listed in production by Aster starring Parker Posey, Amy Ryan, and Joaquin Phoenix. 

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