Director: Ari Aster
Stars: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrn
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Prestige horror. That’s a term I’ve learned recently from some head-up-their-own-butts “critics” recently. They use it to feel better about themselves for liking low-rent, one-step-away-from-porn gutter-trash-like horror movies. It’s more palatable, I guess. Well the latest “prestige horror” to come down the pike is Hereditary, and despite how utterly contrived and pretentious that label is, I swear not to hold it against this latest critical darling from the studio that thrives on releasing critical darlings: A24. So let’s get to it.
First I have to point out, whomever put the trailer for this movie together needs a raise and to win some kind of award. Usually modern trailers suck bad, giving away far too much of the plot and any twists it may have. Hell, the trailer for Quarantine famously had the ending of the movie in it. I mean what the hell? But the trailer for Hereditary was masterful, showing a movie that looked intriguing and mysterious and well worth seeing, but giving NOTHING away. In fact, with that trailer in mind this movie pulled something on me that rarely works – a twist. Literally I had a “whoa, I did not see that coming” moment while watching this one and I was so impressed that I just had to mention that here, so consider it mentioned.
As for the movie itself, it is every bit as good and “prestigious” as you’ve heard. It is a startlingly frank look on loss, mental illness, and most of all, raw and real family dynamics. Add to that one hell of a good horror movie that deals in subtly, mood, and atmosphere instead of jump scares and overly loud music stings. A lot of folks are comparing this film to the likes of The Exorcist, and while I think this movie is good enough to stand on its own merits, I will say this: Hereditary is a well-made movie made by adults for adults. That is a rare and special thing these days and I loved this film because of that.
If you haven’t noticed by now I’ve been dancing around the plot some, and that’s by design. Like me, you owe it to yourself to see this film knowing as little about it beforehand as possible. You deserve your own “whoa, I did not see that coming” moment. I will say that the acting is excellent by all involved, bar none. Standouts would have to be young Milly Shapiro who plays the daughter and Toni Collette who is beyond outstanding as the mother. Seriously, if she doesn’t win awards for this performance than the system is rigged, well more rigged that I thought, against any film that dares to deal with the dreaded H word: horror. Oh and this is director Ari Aster’s first feature film? Wow, just, wow.
Let’s get to the extras and goodies that Lionsgate put on this 4K and Blu-ray dual pack. There is a 20-minute featurette called “Cursed: The True Nature of Hereditary,” a basic retrospective with some behind-the-scenes bits. There is a 15-minute collection of deleted scenes and a photo gallery of shots of the amazing miniatures used in the film. There is a collection of other A24 and Lionsgate movies, but not the one for Hereditary, and its exclusion is very noticeable. And that’s it, so not a ton of special features but the discs aren’t bare bones, either.
Hereditary is an outstanding film no matter the genre, but as a horror film it ranks as one of the best. Period. Mysterious, creepy, and effective across the board. It is a film that should not be missed and as such I beyond highly recommend it.