It takes a lot to make me jump. Horror has been my go to genre for distraction since I was thirteen, but when I look back on it, maybe it was enticing for its sense of stability—the guidelines listed in Scream pointed out the predictability of what lurks behind each corner.
Hereditary was a whole other monster. Ari Aster cracked something inside me (as well as the person in the row behind who cried), I jumped, I was shocked, and happy to know that a horror movie was finally unpredictable. Talking about the movie is difficult, the aftershock lasting for at least a week. Spoilers are necessary to analyze the film, which says a lot in itself—watching the trailer doesn’t prepare you for the plot that unfolds, its roots laying in the occult.
Throughout the film, the scenery provides a stunning juxtaposition, as horrifying scenes are followed by scenic drives past panoramic views of the Park City mountains in Utah. Despite the gore that follows, these spurts of sunshine and beauty bring a humbling tone to the film, reminding the viewer that it doesn’t have to be dark for horror to occur. Moreover, Toni Collette’s Annie brings together her remaining family, Peter (Alex Wolff) and Steve (Gabriel Byrne), around sunrise—an unusual time for a seance, but a successful one nonetheless.
Beyond the stunning visual elements of Hereditary, the score creates an incredibly eerie atmosphere, composed by Colin Stetson (Bon Iver, Arcade Fire)—screeching string orchestrations heighten the terror that unfolds during Peter’s terrifying nose-breaking scene. The magic that lies in Hereditary is that what the viewer wants to happen, seems to fall to the wayside. Instead of the possible romance between Peter and Bridget, the closest the two get is sharing a bong. It’s hard not to root for Annie’s art show, despite seeing her bad parenting, yet she destroys the project before installation.
Ari Aster makes the viewer nostalgic for iconic horror films that came before—Rosemary’s Baby, Amityville Horror, and The Shining. Incorporating the elements that keep horror lovers enticed—unavoidable jumping, rapid heart-rate and sweaty palms, Hereditary packs a punch to the gut.
Hereditary is now playing at Nitehawk.