Hereditary, 2018, 4 ¼ stars

Hereditary  horror

Image copyright PalmStar Media / A24

Exclusive to MeierMovies.com, June 11, 2018

I missed the advance screening of Hereditary, as I was vacationing in Maine at the time. During my trip, I briefly immersed myself in the waters off Bar Harbor. At just 52 degrees, those waters were a shock to my system. Initially intriguing, the frigidity soon left me stunned, almost numb. If I had remained for just a few seconds longer, the feeling would have likely turned to nausea.

Upon my return home, I watched Hereditary. And though it was 90 degrees outside and a comfortable 74 in the cinema in Orlando, that same chill returned to me. That same feeling of dread.

The film stars Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro and Toni Collette in the performance of her career – one that should earn her an Oscar nomination for best actress. (Wolff might also be in the conversation for a supporting-actor nod.) Though it has become a critical darling, it has sharply divided audiences. Even my own friends are bitterly split over the aesthetic merits of this supernatural, psychological horror. Some are bothered by the slow pacing and unpleasant nature of the story, which avoids jump scares and instead delves into nightmarish unpleasantness that is rarely explored in “genre pictures.” But others have found themselves surprisingly moved, disgusted, intrigued and impressed by this debut feature from director Ari Aster. I count myself in the latter group. And though I was mildly bothered by Byrne’s performance and the slightly over-the-top nature of the third act, the film successfully invokes true terror that lingers long after the projector flickers dark.

Go see this film. Or, better yet, treat yourself to a double feature of Hereditary and Rosemary’s Baby. The latter masterpiece from 1968 certainly represents superior filmmaking, but it’s still the closest comparison I can conjure to Aster’s achievement.

Looking back again on my Maine vacation, I suddenly recall where I was at the time of that aforementioned advance screening: I was driving by Stephen King’s house in Bangor. I guess everything happens for a reason.

Copyright 2018 © Cameron Meier