Time has come to indulge in my favorite horror film “Hereditary”

The Channels Arts Pages | STAFF SUGGESTION


Image courtesy of A24 PalmStar Media Finch Entertainment Windy Hill Pictures.

Hunter Clark, Staff Writer

Trader Joe’s coveted selection of pumpkin-flavored snacks has returned to shelves which means October is here. What better way to celebrate the changing of seasons than grabbing a blanket and a box of Pumpkin Spiced Joe Joe sandwich cookies and watching a great horror movie. I suggest Ari Aster’s 2018 feature film debut “Hereditary”. 

The film starts with its protagonist Annie Graham (Toni Collette) giving a eulogy at her estranged mother Ellen’s funeral. Annie is surprised to see so many new faces remarking that her mother was “secretive” and had “private rituals”. If that doesn’t raise a red flag, then Annie’s 13 year old daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) chomping into a chocolate bar while staring blankly into her grandmother’s open casket should. 

Charlie, like much of the movie, is unsettling. She’s quiet and unkept, and has a habit of making a loud click by snapping her tongue off the roof of her mouth; a sound her older brother Peter (Alex Wolff) starts to hear even when she’s not there. 

Like her mother Annie, Charlie is an artist. But instead of constructing intricate dioramas, she forms crude sculptures out of things she finds. For her latest work, Charlie steals her teacher’s scissors and uses them to decapitate a dead pigeon that flew into her classroom window. Charlie casually stuffs the head in her pocket and again goes to town on a chocolate bar.

Despite their… quirks?… the characters are believable and their actions convincing. Their grief is well mixed with confusion and anger, and is communicated through pained facial expressions, sudden outbursts of emotion, and nightmares that blur the line with reality. The family doesn’t communicate well with each other, that is, unless one of them is dead. 

In one scene, a verbal fight between Annie and Peter erupts at the dinner table. There’s no music playing as they hurl blame and insult at each other until Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) demands the quarrel end without resolve. Annie and Peter’s cold relationship is revealed to be built upon a history of unresolved conflict. Collette’s performance is nothing short of superb, and the tense scene leaves the viewer steeping in discomfort. It’s like that buried memory of your ex fighting with their parents, where all you can do is sit back and watch. 

We exist in a golden era of allegorical horror films and among a pantheon of giants in the genre– think “Get Out” (2017), “Midsommar”(2019), and “Us” (2019)– “Hereditary” manages to stand even taller. Colin Stetson’s score is unconventional, gripping, and menacing. From beginning to end my eyes and ears were glued to Aster’s sinister masterpiece. “Hereditary” didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, it had me sinking deeper into it.

Despite a hefty helping of violence, blood, and gore, at its core “Hereditary” is a family drama. Throughout the movie you may start to wonder if the real horror is family dysfunction, a horror more real and palpable than the supernatural. Rest assured the Devil is afoot, and a God fearing man of the cloth armed with a book and a few ounces of water isn’t coming to save the day.