Ellen Graham was a mother and grandmother, but she recently passed away, leaving the rest of her family, her daughter Annie Graham, Annie's husband Steve, and their two kids, Peter and Charlie, in disarray and irateness. Charlie especially, who had the closest relationship. Annie's in charge of the sermon, and it's definitely not the saddest or sweetest you'll ever hear. The family feels like they just haven't spent quality time together over the years, and by the time Grandma passed it was too late to really bond. Annie just spends the days building models of memories, Steve feeling like if he says anything it'll spark a bad temper, Peter out partying with smokers in secret and Charlie seemingly always in deep thought. Some of the family is feeling like Ellen is not entirely gone, and when another tragedy hits the family, measures taken to try to feel better go more awry than they could've ever dreamt.
The truth is, I didn't think this movie was scary. That's usually a ginormous blow for something in the horror genre, but Hereditary has so much more up its sleeve. If anything, it's the fear of making one decision, and that decision becomes disastrous, and then it haunts you. And the fear is projected through what the characters go through...and their reactions to the whole thing.
Toni Collette, Alex Wolff and Millie Shapiro are all simply incredible. Collette's performance just might be the best leading lady performance since Charlize Theron playing serial killer and prostitute Aileen Wuornos. I mean, just listen to her shouts and watch all those long shots that don't stop for another take. Alex Wolff has grown so much since his Naked Brothers Band days too. I was at first worried his character, Peter, would be nothing special and get in the way of the other two, but then I watched the minute-long shot of realizing what he'd just done. He's not crying, but he's sweating, in shock. There's also a scene where Collette's character is having one of the worst nightmares imaginable, not because it's scary but because it's emotion-gutting. Both she and Wolff play characters that are at the very edge of the cliff and they show it. Never in a single instant did I not believe anyone's performance, and it's when an early climax takes place that they embody many true-life visions of broken families. There is a dinner scene where I feel if a mother and her son watch it together, they'll squirm and not want to look at the other at all, and then after the scene is over, they'll want to hug each other and think about if there is anything in their relationship they can do better.
The movie at first takes its time with the story, allowing us to explore Annie's models and Charlie's benign and freaky habits of collecting dead bird heads. Horror movies have the advantage of me knowing that something attentive is going to happen, or at least should happen. "mother!" from 2017 had that but it didn't end up working for me. Maybe it's because in this one, there's a good soundtrack of heightening fright songs to devour the seconds when things need to slow down a little. And hey! Here there's no woman getting tossed all over the place and her not doing anything about it.
The angle they take about tragedies and grievances blew me by complete surprise with a Ouija Board sense. When I was watching that scene, I imagined what I would do if I were there and cried a little bit, and I anticipated how someone else was going to react to it later on in the movie like it was a holiday coming up. And as the climax continues to approach, especially after something that really divided the family even more, Annie nonetheless tries with all her heart to protect what's left of them.
The ending to the movie is definitely unexpected in so many ways, and maybe a little unclear, but in a universe where there are a lot of horror movies with endings that just downright don't make sense, this one instead almost feels like the church sermon from Satan's garden, allowing us to feel like we're maybe unsatisfied but tired, and just happy that not everything was bad in the end...in a way. And life will go on...
Hereditary is a very memorable time, and the actors couldn't have been more heart-tugging.