In this discussion I will be going over my thoughts on Hereditary and why after some time to reflect I believe it is the scariest horror movies I have seen. This will contain spoilers for the movie so if you have yet to see it I urge you to experience it before reading.
Hereditary is first and foremost a family drama from which the terror of the movie comes from. The reason it is so effective is because of the connections you form with the characters. The realistic drama you witness this family go through is what makes the family grow on you getting you emotionally invested allowing the horror to really make an impact. Often times you do not get the chance for a real connection with the characters as they are lambs to the slaughter all for entertainment. Even main characters tend to be fairly shallow archetypes playing out familiar roles. Here each member of the family is unique and brings something to the table to keep you invested.
From the mother, Annie and son, Peter being at each other’s throat most of the film to the strange daughter Charlie having an odd connection to her brother Hereditary gives you a lot to examine. The family dynamic shown tends to be one of hostility, grief and estrangement. The film touches on some very tense and often times close to home subjects for many people such as loss of loved ones, anger towards relatives, and the breakdown of communication. Here is the emotional investment I mentioned earlier and the movie really tugs at your emotions through deeply disturbing talks among the family and the implications the conversations carry.
The drama unfolding digs its hooks into you and allows the horror of Hereditary to really shine. Examining what is to me the scariest scene in the film, you can see all of the emotions and angles at play to really get under your skin. I am talking about the scene in which Annie is having a nightmare and sleepwalks into Peter’s room. When she enters his room through her eyes Peter is dead covered in ants. We see her face in shock staring down at him when suddenly he wakes up and is very frightened as one would be. From here they engage in an extremely disturbing and terrifying back and forth of crazed conversation and pure anguish as they cry and yell at each other. In this scene everything the film does well comes together including the sound design, effective camera shots, intense words, and horrific performances by both actors building to a trippy and awful crescendo. In the end of the scene the camera is feverishly cutting back and forth as they are crying and incoherently speaking while they get covered in liquid then set ablaze. This terrifying sequence feels like a fever dream wrapped in a panic attack bow that had me jaw dropped and completely stunned in my theater seat while everyone went silent and did not speak or move the rest of the film.
This is just one example of how effective and brilliantly shot the movie is. The entire first half of the movie had done an incredible job of building tension through family suffering and at the half way point expertly drops a bomb on the audience that creates a tonal shift for the rest of the movie. I of course am speaking of Charlie’s death scene which I did not see coming at all. From trailers she had appeared to be the main focus of the movie and her quirky behavior up till this point had led me to expect much more from her. Not only does she die a gruesome death but the impact of this moment ripples throughout the rest of Hereditary. This moment was the catalyst for the rest of the family drama to reach its peak and for our characters to ultimately spiral continuously until the climax.
The end of Hereditary is admittedly something I was a little upset about but ultimately does not in any way ruin my opinion of the film. Ultimately the movie does dive into supernatural horror but since a majority of the films horror comes from its psychological aspects so I view it from that angle.
Ultimately Hereditary is a harrowing experience for anyone and a fantastic example of what the horror genre is capable of. I cannot wait to see more from this director as his debut was absolutely incredible. I hope you have enjoyed this discussion as I know I loved writing about it.