I have had the pleasure of consuming great horror this year. I’ll gladly speak highly of The Haunting of Hill House. Annihilation checked all of my sci-fi/horror boxes while adding in plenty of Lovecraftian lore. And Mandy was the best kind of gruesome. However, nothing had quite the impact that Hereditary did. If you have not seen Hereditary, kindly remove yourself from the rock you’ve been living under. I saw it. It kicked my ass. I analyzed with friends. I saw it again. Same result. More and more conversations about it. I didn’t talk more about a film this year than I talked about Hereditary. The story that writer/director Ari Astor weaves is among the best that horror has to offer. While Hereditary may start with a tense uncertainty of what’s to come, it effectively evolves into a beautifully crafted portrait of grief and how each individual learns to cope. You spend time with each member of this family as they process and eventually succumb to that anger, frustration, bitterness, and regret we all deal with in our own lives. Much of the film isn’t scary per se, just emotionally dreadful. Which is exactly where Astor wants you, invested in these characters. Annie (Toni Collette) starts down her path into paranoia and the audience is right there with her, rooting for the smallest amount of closure just to break the tension. Peter (Alex Wolff) struggles through sleepless nights and we suffer fatigue with him. And Steve’s (Gabriel Byrne) frustration becomes more relatable with each stressful scene from the other two. Charlie (Milly Shapiro) absolutely took my breath away. Do not mistake Hereditary for a simple family drama. When the horror hits, it hits like a truck. The few jump scares were orchestrated so well they are true what-the-hell-just-happened jump scares, the most notable of the film coming at a time no one is expecting yet everyone is engaged and watching closely. The entire second act is a slow ascending burn to an incredibly satisfying climax and denouement without any stop. Once the scary starts, it doesn’t end until the credits which is near perfection. The story is resolved without losing any steam built during the finale. The audience can finally breath while our brains are making sense of whatever just happened. I only have one qualm with the plot that initiates a fairly important plot point (spoiler alert: what teenager is going to bake a chocolate cake at a high school party?) but even that detail hasn’t stopped me from multiple viewings.
Hereditary is the best horror has to offer in 2018 and it will take something amazing in 2019 to beat it.
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