It’s been an age since I have written about a film, so obviously I am jumping at the chance to tell you all about this little gem, hopefully I will do a better job that ‘The Independent’ writer, who wrote such an appalling article about the film, that I felt compelled to tell them either to sack the writer, get a better proof reader, or to let me write their articles on films instead… sadly they went for the option of just editing the article, but it does beg the question of where they are getting their film critics from, as literate doesn’t appear to be one of their requirements.
Enough of me moaning about ‘The Independent’, and on with telling you about ‘Hereditary’. If you haven’t heard anything about this film, it’s Ari Aster’s first feature length film and he definitely enters the scene with a bang.
Let’s not forget, for a moment that the trailer for this film was shown before ‘Peter Rabbit’ in Australia in some horrible mix up. Considering that this film is fairly traumatic, the trailer doesn’t hold back and there are potentially some mentally scarred children from the event. This aside, this film is a great mix between a classic possession movie, with a huge amount of symbolism and some unforeseen plot twists. While I have great respect for this movie, I think that there is some explanation missing along the way which audiences can very easily miss and leave them scratching their heads at the end.
Rather than relay the story line, as I don’t like to spoil the fun for people who haven’t seen it (and if you are a die hard horror fan like I am, I really recommend that you make your way out and see this), I think I am just going to give some general pointers and tell you a few things to look out for.
Have you found that in horror films, no one really has a ‘normal’ job? They are an actress, or an interior designer, or a high flying photographer, which then leads you to believe that it is ok, because people who stack shelves in Tescos don’t get possessed and road sweepers won’t have a demon living in their closet? Well this film is really no different. Annie (Toni Collette) is no different. She obviously has a job making dioramas. This might not feel that important as you watch the film, but actually it is. Throughout the film you will notice that the dioramas are mingled with shots of scenery, leaving you wondering what is real and what is model. This, in my opinion is to make the audience feel a sense of confusion and altered reality.
The dioramas also play a role in the story line, in that they reveal background story in an non intrusive way, so watch out for snippet shots which give further detail to the suggested background that the characters talk about.
Milly Shapiro plays Charlie, and makes a superb job of playing a child with some very clear autistic spectrum qualities. Her role is intense and well defined, but you need to pay attention to her quirks as they appear throughout the film as indicators of what is happening.
Peter, played by Alex Wolff, may not seem to be the main character, but the story really does revolve around his actions and deterioration. He elevates and already strained relationships with his mother, Annie, to an extreme and demonstrates pure emotion on the screen.
Scenes in this film are gory and traumatic, and they can potentially leave the viewer reeling, although they are brief, like a vaguely remembered nightmare, although the scene with Annie’s howling crying is something powerful and haunting.
I am going to take a moment to talk about the demon in this – I don’t think that this is a particular spoiler as I am pretty sure that the trailer refers to it, but if you think that you might find this a spoiler… stop reading now.
Any fool can make up a demon for a horror film, we have seen this time and again, so it is quite nice to see a film which draws on something real. The actual reference to Paimon within the movie is brief and relies on you being able to pick up what he does from a few brief shots. You also need to realise that Paimon has been involved in the families life for much longer than the time line of the film. From the brief shots of a book a spiritualism, you can see that there is a belief that Paimon will shower followers in riches. It is apparent that the family has a dark past with Annie’s past away mother as the leader of the Paimon cult, and what ensues within the film is pure manipulation of a situation to get a host body.
Watch out for the ‘seal of Paimon’ stamped all the way through the film as this will really assist the understanding of the ending. Be eagled eyed and you will see it everywhere.
The cinematography of this piece is very clever, assisting in building the atmosphere and feeling of exclusion and madness. There is also a very muted colour palette within the family home, making the atmosphere oppressive and stifling.
I walked out of this film, desperately feeling like I needed to watch it again immediately. There is so much to take in and the ending, even to the most observant of us can still be left feeling a little confused with the last events.
What I will say is, the build up can feel a little slow. The film builds up the character relationships and dynamics really well, but in light of the most recent spat of horror movies which give no character build up and leaves you not caring if the characters get horribly injured or killed or not, ‘Hereditary’ really takes the time to do this, but that can make the final 20 minutes or so feel really rushed.
I can’t recommend seeing this film enough, if for nothing else, to see a different take on an old theme, which has been presented spectacularly.
Have you seen ‘Hereditary’? Why not tell me what you thought in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?