Reel Shorts | Hereditary

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne show that every inheritance has its price in the new thriller, Hereditary.

The Graham family has lost their eccentric grandmother. While daughter Annie (Toni Collette) struggles to come to grips with her loss, she is tasked with completing a miniature model for an art exhibit. Unfortunately, the stress of the project deadline, combined with the grief process and taking care of her own family becomes too much for her and she seeks the help of a therapy group. The group does not help much especially when the family suffers another tragic loss. With the help of a friend from the group, Annie takes a much more desperate approach to overcome her profound loss. Eventually, problems arise from Annie’s decision that ties into her family’s legacy and threatens to jeopardize the very existence of her family.

Hereditary is a horror/thriller written and directed by Ari Aster (C’est La Vie). This is Aster’s first foray into the feature-length films having done several short films previously and Aster shows decent ability in his direction. He uses interesting camera angles and frames his actors well to allow them their best opportunity to perform. There are several sequences and shots that call to one’s mind scenes from classic horror films The Exorcist, The Blair Witch Project and even The Omen.

Creativity and originality suffer in the movie but, that can be expected with films in the horror. There are the requisite number of jump scares and tension created through the film. Also included are a handful of disturbing scenes including decapitation, possession, and immolation that amp up the tension of the film. The soundtrack has its usual dark and brooding bass heavy ambiance that increases in volume in the proper moments. All in all, Hereditary has the potential to be a decent horror flick worthy of any late-night teenager date night show.

Aster and Hereditary fail to achieve even that mediocrity because of its terrible pacing. At two hours and seven minutes of run time, Hereditary could be better served to have about thirty to forty minutes removed to move the story along. The film is torturously slow and while there is nothing wrong with taking time to develop characters and create atmosphere, viewers were aware of where the story was going from the beginning monologue when Annie Graham speaks of her mother at her funeral as being a private woman with private rituals. Confusingly, even with the extended screen time, Aster still fails to fully develop and illustrate the nature of the characters of the family Graham and leaves a number of things for viewer interpretation. The majority of the aforementioned scare scenes occur in the last fifteen minutes of the movie and the movie grinds to a confusing halt after every one of the scenes that occur prior to those last fifteen minutes.

Despite having the veteran talents of Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, Krampus) and Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, Stigmata), Alex Wolff (Patriot’s Day, The Naked Brothers Band) is the true star of the film. While Collette stumbles through and Byrne mumbles Wolff’s ability comes to the front. He portrays the son Peter Graham in a wide range from confused and distraught to angry and even demon possessed.

Rated R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity, Hereditary is a poorly executed outing in a genre that does not expect much from its entrants.

Grade: D-