And while Hereditary is not outright terrifying, it is by far the finest slice of horror to come out of Hollywood in an unspeakably long time, and comes much closer to truly getting under the skin of the viewer than any of its pale peers.
If we start with the basics, and the story, we're introduced to a family of four, with what can only be described as a dark background permeating them, but while we get teased glimpses of what that might be, it doesn't start to unravel until something happens to change it all.
And that change helps to develop the story from what many people expected into what it really is - a true horror about the hell of grief, the nightmare of loss, with more than a touch of darkness in there to show just how deep the root of evil can go.
The performances in Hereditary are... they're mixed. Shapiro's Charlie is absolutely brilliant, while Colette's Annie was only overlooked for an Oscar because it's a horror. But Gabriel Byrne's Steve is forced into stupid moments and situations because the writers couldn't find a way to make his character work in this film properly. Quite frankly they made him annoying. But Wolff's Peter is another fine example of a strong performance, without it being stunning.
The direction is superb, truly superb. It's a long movie but it doesn't feel it, and Ari Aster has done an outstanding job of showing what you need to see, while avoiding a lot of silly 'boo' scares. The ones he uses are excellent and work brilliantly. He and Pogorzelsi created a fine look and feel for the film, a sense of production which is fantastically made and some frequently excellent touches to make this film stand out.
Sure, the story isn't really all that unique, in the grand scheme of things, but the way it's presented is, with originality, flair and panache plus that unbridled epidermal creaking horror lying under the surface.
This is one very twisted film but without doing it overly gratuitously. What you don't see is more scary than what you do and Aster nails that.
However, and a few have mentioned it, the ending - it's hideous, at best. It doesn't undo all the fine work which came before but it doesn't fit and it definitely detracts - I know where it should have ended and it really missed a trick.
But this is nitpicking. It's the best horror to come out of Hollywood in decades and shows Asia doesn't have a monopoly any more on good quality terror.