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I don’t know what most people are expecting from HEREDITARY (2018). I know it’s an A24 production, and I know Toni Collette is in it, and I know A24 hasn’t yet let me down with films like It Comes at Night (2018) and The Green Room (2016) and The Witch (2016). I really wasn’t expecting the level of dread and horror like I experienced watching Hereditary, and likely you won’t either. Brace yourselves, it starts off hard and gets worse.

Annie’s (Toni Collette) world is crumbling around her. Her mother has died and she’s not processing it well, if at all. She has an art show of her exquisite dioramas coming up and she’s very behind. Her work is so exacting, the individual vignettes practically breathe with their own life, which is troubling to her family, as her work begins to reflect and refract particularly her so she has the stress of completing one vignette after another. As one tragedy after another compound her inability to express her sadness and rage, her resentment at herself, her family and her mother spill out in unhealthy and dangerous ways. They affect her husband (Gabriel Byrne) and their teenaged son (Alex Wolff), and young Charlie (Milly Shapiro), whose disturbing fascinations and hand-made toys do not hint so much as broadcast what’s wrong with absolutely all of it.

The angle of mental illness (specifically Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]) and the supernatural specter of family secrets keep Hereditary firmly anchored in a tangible reality, even if it’s not a reality we can fully recognize. It is the inheritance of everything that makes and binds us to family – the good, the bad, the genetically damaging. I have a lot of thoughts about this film, like who or what is real, the pervasiveness of mental illness, the viral speed at which it spreads from family member to family member – but I don’t want to take away from you experiencing them all on your own, and this film needs to be experienced in a dark theater where the possibility of shutting off or multi-tasking is eliminated.

It’s paced like a family drama where terrible things happen at a natural pace – some folks might call this slow. Those folks can’t sit with us. There is foreshadowing like a bright billboard on a dark highway and as subtle as a shadow that shouldn’t be there. This is a full eyes and ears movie – you don’t have to strain to see what doesn’t belong and the sounds, so if the jerk in front of you keeps checking the time on his phone, tell him to shut it off or get out.

This movie is Oscar-worthy.

Oscar. Worthy.

Toni Collette simultaneously holds it together while unraveling faster than anyone can track. It hurts to watch her because you can practically hear the countdown of her own implosion clock. There are no cheap scares or clichés, none. The tension is thick, the trauma is heavy and everything hurts – the large spacious house they all live in feels like the miniatures Annie creates in her workshop, and there’s barely any room to breathe.

While I will argue all day long that Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) is not horror (c’mon and FITE ME), Hereditary is absolutely at the top of its class of what horror filmmaking is. I normally wait until after the credits finish rolling before leaving a theater, but as soon as the screen faded to black, I was out of my seat and headed for the door. I was absolutely done sitting in the dark. I was done with noises and shadows.

This is a strong Recommend from me.

Hereditary (2018) is rated R for death and the crushing grief that follows, asphyxiation, manual decapitation, some bloody and traumatic images, a little of the Mary Jane, naked people, involuntary immolation, getting screamed at, seizures, and the knowledge that you will never know what’s real in this film. You are not ready.

Hereditary is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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