A24’s done it again and with Toni Collette starring in their latest film, ‘Hereditary,’ they’ve created a must-see horror film; one that will be remembered for a long time to come. She’s one of the most underrated actors working today so I’m glad to see her get this role. Forgive that the film is a bit slow because Collette is outstanding as Annie a, fundamentally, cursed soul. This script allowed Collette a great deal of room to play more than one entity and gave her character above average depth. Horror films usually give female characters one dimension, but Collette’s Annie is to frighten you and throw you off course and she does so with ease.
Annie is writer/director Ari Aster’s female lead, a mother who is fighting many demons in the present as well as evil in her bloodline she was previously unaware of. When her mother passes away, grief-stricken, Annie inherits complications she doesn’t understand but must now deal with, ready or not… like it or not. Though she tries to avoid the truth about her ancestry, several horribly events push her to acknowledge who she is. She says things she never knew she felt, experiences the mythical and sees what she once thought unreal. The complexity of the death of her daughter moves her in a direction the filmmakers made sure the audience would never see coming. This is well hidden in trailers because they lead you to believe her daughter, Charlie (Shapiro), is a problem child to be feared when it turns out that it’s Annie we all need to be concerned with. After all, she is next in line. How this unravels is just a slice of what makes the film such a delightful fright. True or not, making your audience imagine that Annie is the protagonist before they even sit to watch the story unfold is a brilliant move. Centered around her behavior for how she loses her child, the suspense builds in a most unusual fashion, taking this mother down a most unexpected path. The shock and terror come from who you envision she’ll be and you never expect who she ultimately becomes.
In his feature debut, Aster manages to surprise horror fans by giving them a feeling of isolation with the story and making it almost impossible to grasp onto a lifeline that could pull them to safety… because there isn’t one in or around them to find. Annie is unredeemable. As she becomes more desperate, Aster uses fewer clichés and relies a limited amount on what makes a traditional horror film grim and ghastly which will endear you to his style and drive you wild with anticipation for the next nightmare he’ll drag you through.
I did have one issue but didn’t want to give anything away by revealing too much. However, I feel compelled to mention what I thought was a tragic error so I will. The storyline Annie’s son, Peter (Wolff), is involved in won’t be divulged because it’s very jarring, but I must mention that the actor chosen was not a good fit for the part. This felt so wrong that it pulls you out of the story at times. The creepy level is high and the tension you’ll feel will startle and impress. Horror doesn’t work when it’s predictable. ‘Hereditary’ is anything but that.