For his feature directorial debut, Ari Aster really couldn’t have done much of a better job. ‘Hereditary’ goes to a place that many horror films only scratch the surface of.
The menacing, slow pan of an empty room is one of the opening shots of the film and essentially sets the mood for its remainder. It’s these moments of silence, of evil brooding, that really bring ‘Hereditary’ to life.
Just as it begins to creep into ‘typical horror’ territory – scary little kid and all – the rug is pulled from underneath and the film becomes so terrifying so quickly that there's no turning back... You're in it for the ride.
The cinematography here is just brilliant. One of the great things about 'Hereditary' is how it completely abandons the concept of time-lapse; instead snapping from day to night and from one location to another with one simple jump cut. There's no point in filling extended periods with sped-up shots of scenery to signify time passing when it can just be done with a snap of the fingers.
Even something as simple as a zoom into a dollhouse that eventually fills the screen and becomes real life is extremely effective. Serious props are in order for Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski and Editors Jennifer Lame and Lucian Johnston.
This film is a little weaker in the plot/storytelling vein but what it lacks in a solid beginning middle and end it more than makes up for by truly evoking all kinds of emotions watching this family go through what they do.
In hindsight, the first half seems to have almost been a preparation or construction of what happens in the last half; it's put together in such a way that it isn't nearly as terrifying at first but still builds up so much tension and discomfort that you're constantly anticipating the absolute worst.
In terms of acting, each member of the lead cast is outstanding in their own way.
Toni Collette's character Annie experiences practically every emotion a human can go through... Happiness (albeit barely), anger, sadness, terror, frustration... And she manages to be incredibly convincing with each, giving Annie the huge depth she requires as a character in this film. Gabriel Byrne plays her husband Steve, who just wants to protect his wife.
Milly Shapiro is suitably eerie and strange as daughter Charlie, whose screen time is almost entirely silent aside from her terrifying tongue clicks which you'll never hear the same again after leaving the cinema.
Also definitely worth mentioning is Alex Wolff playing Annie's son Peter; a generally quiet and kept-to-himself character who manages to find his voice in the second half of the film in a way that Alex handles impeccably.
'Hereditary' relishes in building anticipation, weaving thick webs of tension and eventually bringing it all crashing down in a horrific finale that seems to go on forever – in the best 'horror film' way possible.