Hereditary lures you in slowly. For the first 30 minutes or so, you might think you have walked into a dark family comedy/drama with a bit of a macabre look to it. Toni Collette as Annie Graham and Gabriel Byrne as her husband, Steve, give this beginning an innocuous air. Funny, isn’t it, how things aren’t always as they first appear. After Annie’s mother’s death the family’s response varies, and not all the Grahams are saddened by the unusual woman’s passing. In director Ari Aster’s latest film, the audience discovers what this absent figure has left behind for her loved ones.
This movie is something of an enigma. On the one hand, Aster creates an intricate buildup of signs and symbols, setting in motion a haunting machinery that runs through the piece. But not too quickly – this picture tightens its grip slowly. It is a storm in a teacup, or in this case, a drama in a doll’s house. You will find your eyes darting around the screen for the next trick of the light. The games the filmmaker plays with reality, however, are bold, tortuous and at times as perplexing as the plot. This feature doesn’t piece a puzzle together – it throws the box at you and runs.
Collette is part of what makes this movie so genre-bendingly strange. The actress remains a conflicted and grieving daughter, but unleashes comic timing and wide-eyed menace at will. Without her as this film’s lynchpin, there is no eye for the storm unleashed upon the family. And nobody to lull you into a false complacency, either.
There is a limit to the level of confusion an audience can take. Although this feature delivers real mind-wrangling, blinkless scenes, the overarching narrative is a little left-field, so much so that it requires a tacit explainer. Hereditary will scare you. Watch it for the subtle craft and the terrific central performance, rather than hoping for a way to crack its convoluted code.
Hereditary is released nationwide on 15th June 2018.
Watch the trailer for Hereditary here: