Mental Mind Games
I hate horror movies but in the past year I have seen more than I would have thought I would. That is because there have been new movies that keep changing the genre, moving away from constant jump scares and evolving into something more creepy and intellectual. That is the realm in which Hereditary attempts to strike a balance. It is equal parts realistic and supernatural horror, blending two genres but making it in such a way that you are scared long after the credits role. This isn’t just a horror movie, this a new brand of scary that has you thinking and theorizing until you can’t take any more.
After the death of her mother, Annie Graham deals with the grief and emotions of losing someone close to her. In the midst of this, her family begins to discover the dark secrets that live in their families ancestry. With the more they uncover, the more sinister things become from them.
First of all the performances are top notch, with Toni Collette as the mother being the standout and very worthy of an Oscar. She’s unsettling when she needs to be, and is able to convey a variety of emotions from even the smallest moments. The intensity and authenticity in her performance adds to the creepiness of the movie and allows for some truly unsettling moments that still disturb me as I write this review.
The other cast members also do a great job and convey emotions that are truly real and add to the shock factor of the movie. The son, played by Alex Wolff, has a good rapport that really plays up and changes over the course of the movie. One point he is a arrogant teen and then slowly changes to a boy crying for his mommy. The change he goes through is compelling as he begins to uncover the dark secrets that plague his family.
What really makes this movie scary and unsettling is how much it plays on your expectations of horror movies. This is a slow burn of a movie, meaning it takes its time to build towards its creepier and scarier moments. This works in the movies favor as when things start going down you really feel it since it has been built from the beginning. Instead of going for jump scares, the shot will slowly reveal silhouettes, building up the moment for the scare to come. There are still shocking jaw-dropping moments that scare you in a bone-chilling way, but it’s more about the slow journey the movie takes.
The movie is also two movies in one and interchangeably has you thinking about what type of movie you are actually watching. Is it a metaphor the destabilization that grief can have on an individual and the psychological toll of mental illness? Or is it one that plays on the supernatural elements of the unknown? The movie cleverly blends the two together to keep you guessing as it builds towards its intense finale when things are revealed. Even then you are left with the questions of what actually happened.
Another strength of the movie is the commentary it has on mental illness and the toll it takes on everyone involved. This is again highlighted in Collette’s performance as she struggles with what her mother went through. She questions everything and tries to see if she can help herself and her family and those struggles to get better and understand what she is going through are truly palpable and raw that give the movie an added authenticity.
And as the movie unfolds you are left thinking about that effect of mental illness. It serves as the heart of the movie as it frames some of the best scares and genuine creepiness. As it morphs into something else you become enthralled and are on the edge of your seat wanting to leave due to the intensity of events folding on screen. But even then, it is still a story of human characters battling with something that can be seen as truly real and devastating and that’s why this movie succeeds so much. This is more than another horror movie, this is a new standard and originality that most movies should now aim for.
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