A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown's fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
When her mentally ill mother passes away, a woman named Annie (Toni Collette) and her husband (Gabriel Byrne), son (Alex Wolff) and daughter (Milly Shapiro) all mourn her loss. The family turn to different means to handle their grief, including Annie and her daughter both flirting with the supernatural. They each begin to have disturbing, otherworldly experiences linked to the sinister secrets and emotional trauma that have been passed through the generations of their family.
'Hereditary' is sort of like two films in one. Half of the time it is being what I expected it to be, which is a horror movie. The other half though it plays out much like a drama. I would even suggest it's a better film when it's in drama mode than it is when it's in horror mode. The film is over 2 hours in length which is extremely long by modern horror movie standards. The reason I believe for this is that it's trying to fit so much in and achieve so much in such a little time. It's a very ambitious film it would have to be said.
The entire cast were terrific, but Toni Collette absolutely blew me away. The emotional depth she is able to achieve never ceases to amaze me and she is captivating to watch in any scene she's in. I feel like she is one of the most under-appreciated actresses working today. As mentioned though, everyone is terrific and this is one of the best acted horror movies you are likely to find.
I sat in the cinema for a couple of minutes are the credits rolled just trying to work out how I actually felt about the film. I know I liked it, but I also know I didn't love it as much as I had hoped to going in. It certainly surprised me that I was more invested in the real-life drama side of things, and that the horror was almost like an unwanted distraction at times. The horror is almost always about atmosphere and visuals rather than any kind of jump-scare which I always like. What I didn't like though was how casually it jumped from seeming normality to outright suspension of belief. I feel like this could have been bridged a little better. Early on there's a lot of subtlety, then in one scene all of that is thrown out the window at once. I suppose at least the audience knows where they stand from that point onwards.
'Hereditary' is a film made with impeccable quality, of that there is no questioning. In fact it's made so well that I would suggest what story you picked to tell almost wouldn't matter because writer/director Ari Aster clearly has the skills to make it work. I can see opinions being very divided on the film (I even had a couple walk out of the cinema at one point in my showing), but I think the majority will like it on some level and for that reason I would recommend giving it a look.
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