As something of a horror aficionado, to say that I was excited to watch Ari Aster’s new horror flick Hereditary after reading a scintillating review from Emily Murray at UNILAD would certainly be an understatement, particularly when it was dubbed “possibly the most terrifying film since [William Friedkin’s] The Exorcist”.
Brimming with anticipation as the opening scene began to roll, I was more than ready for what Hereditary was about to inflict on me. Or so I thought.
Expecting a cross between James Wan’s The Conjuring and something more Stephen King-esque, what I was met with was a graphic splattering of accidental recklessness and psychotic behaviour.
Once it was clear that we, the audience, were strapped in and along for the ride, Aster quickly missed the turn off to frightening and headed straight for disturbing at alarming speeds, reminiscent of the film’s often disinterested but obviously troubled Peter (Alex Wolff), whose detachment from reality sends us hurtling over a cliff and plunging into the dark depths of the abyss where we’re forced to await an ominous fate.
In the same vein of Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, it appears that shock value was Aster’s aim, rather than actual terror, but I have to credit him for the elements of surprise that smacked his audience square in the face, having spent the majority of the film with my mouth open and my hand to my throat.
Amongst a subdued performance from Gabriel Byrne as passive father and husband Steve, newcomer Milly Shapiro deserves props for her unsettling portrayal of Charlie, but it was Toni Collette’s harrowing depiction of grieving mother and wife Annie that was the film’s saving grace.
If it weren’t for Collette’s ability to connect with the audience through her unimaginable loss and subsequent vulnerability, I’m not quite sure I would have made it to the end, but then again, that might not have been a bad thing.
After following the continual tragedies and experiences of the Graham family, at times reluctantly, the sneaking suspicion I’d had that we were about to see a collision of two different storylines that just didn’t quite agree with one another was confirmed.
Besides a number of unexplored characters, what we were left upon leaving the cinema was vast confusion and a myriad of questions surrounding the bizarre conclusion, along with some extremely disturbing images that have been burned into our retinas and won’t soon be forgotten. Of course if that was the point, Aster nailed it, but for now at least, I think we’ll leave The Exorcist atop the list of most terrifying films where it belongs.