Every few years a movie comes along that plays the festival circuit and it gets proclaimed “The scariest movie ever made.” Hereditary is the latest in this long line of festival darlings. The vast majority of them do not live up to the hype. Hereditary bucks that trend by being just as good as advertised. It’s not “The scariest movie ever made” (that honor still belongs to The Exorcist) but it is extremely creepy, very scary and well made.
Recapping the plot of Hereditary is not an easy thing to do and I really don’t want to do it because I think this is a movie that will play best when you don’t know anything about it going in. I will say that it is a slow burn that centers around a family that seems completely unable to avoid tragedy.
For the majority of the film’s runtime there is an overbearing sense of dread. The first two-thirds or so aren’t really scary at all, they are just creepy. So much of this depends on the actors. Not to worry though, the cast includes Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne. You’re in fine hands here. In fact, the cast is quite small and everyone seems to be at the top of their game. The last third of the movie is when the fear takes over and things get out of control. These moments are handled beautifully by director Ari Aster.
After seeing Hereditary I was really looking forward to checking out Aster’s other work. Unfortunately, the only other directing credits he has listed on imdb are shorts. That makes the work that he did on this film, his first feature, all the more amazing and he is someone I will be keeping an eye on in the future.
Aster also wrote the screenplay. If there are any issues with this movie, I would say that they are in the script. There is something odd about the way that the characters deal with one another. This can be explained away because this is a family that is dealing with constant tragedy, in fact we never see these people when they aren’t in a state of grief. I did find it a bit off putting though. The only other complaint is that Gabriel Bryne feels very underused in this role. It’s too bad because he is doing great work (as always), there just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot for him to do.
Is Hereditary the scariest movie ever made? No. Is it one of the best horror movies to come out in a long time? Yes. This movie is up there with the other great independent genre films that we have gotten in the past couple of years. Think one part The Exorcist, one part Rosemary’s Baby and one part The Babadook. If that sounds appealing to you, Hereditary is right up your alley.