It seems that every year there is one independently made horror film that becomes a film festival darling and is over-hyped as the savior of horror. Past examples include It Follows (2014) and The Witch (2015). This year it's Hereditary, an effective chiller that is very unsettling, but it also has its flaws and isn't the be-all and end-all of horror.
This melancholy tale focuses on Annie (Toni Collette), who is an artist, has a supportive husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne), and is the mother of two moody teens, stoner Peter (Alex Wolff) and weird Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who draws grotesque pictures of people and cuts the heads off of dead pigeons. Annie is mourning the recent death of her estranged mother, but a more horrific tragedy awaits. Eventually, dark family secrets are revealed. Not to give too much away but ghosts and the occult play significant roles in the story.
This is the first feature from writer/director Ari Aster and, while well made, it's a real downer. It's hopeless from the beginning and, at times, truly upsetting. It's also a little too self-important and at two-hours and seven-minutes it is a bit too long. However, the director, along with top-notch performances from the cast, keep you engrossed. The feeling of dread that Aster's movie projects undeniably gets under your skin. The scene in which we see a character slowly go into shock after a horrifying accident isn't easy to shake. Sometimes the line between reality and nightmare blur and become a little confusing, but I just think that makes the movie durable for repeat viewings so you can go back and put all of the pieces together. Plus, near the end, Hereditary has a great, perfectly timed jump scare.