Hereditary

Hereditary ★★★★½

Hereditary is the kind of horror film that gradually lays down, layer by layer, an unrelenting level of dread that lasts long after you've left the theater. It's also the kind of film that is bound to divide audiences due to its aforementioned slow-burn approach that greatly favors examining the psychological toll and deterioration of the central family over the more mainstream approaches of films like The Conjuring or Insidious.

Basically, in typical A24 horror fashion, Hereditary is an incredibly accomplished "artsy" horror film that plays with its genre's tropes and staples in ways that will leave certain moviegoers disappointed since the result is bound to differ from the movie they thought they were going to see.

The premise of the film is simple enough – after the death of the Graham family matriarch Ellen, Annie (Toni Collette) and her family must navigate the aftermath and attempt the process of grief in their own ways.

It is quickly made clear that grieving, in Annie's case, is a lot more complicated due to her mother's secretive, manipulative and overall corrosive relationship with her family. In an effort to try and find some form of closure (and being unable to turn to her family who she believes "couldn't help her"), Annie decides to attend a loss support group. Here she reveals the extensive history of mental illness that runs in her family, including her depressive father who starved himself to death and her schizophrenic brother who believed Ellen was "trying to put people inside him" and then committed suicide.

From here, the film takes a turn that is impossible to predict (props to the marketing team on one of the best uses of misdirection in recent memory) and any idea you think you may have conceived of as to where the film is going is thrown out the window.

What can be said about the film after this point is pretty much limited to the gut-level emotions you'll feel as the brutally honest, horrific, and reality-questioning ruminations on the effects of mental illness, the demons that are grief and guilt, and a family on the verge of absolute collapse with no sign of reconciliation in sight play out. Make no mistake, this is very, very dark stuff.

Amplifying the sustained unease are the cacophonous tones composer Colin Stetson has compiled – clarinets and horns and strings and just about every instrument in a full symphony drone on in almost overwhelmingly disconcerting layers of sound that perfectly mirrors the Graham family's descent into despair – and the result for the viewer is a near-constant full-body surge of panic.

While Hereditary is filled with lasting imagery and sounds that will haunt your mind as you attempt to fall asleep or walk through the house at night, what can't be done justice in words is the sheer emotional turmoil that you will be left with after the film fills you with a pure, unadulterated dread – the kind that takes root in your very train of thought and taints everything with an unshakeable existential fatalism.

There will of course be those who will attempt to belittle the film as "not that scary" or "slow and boring," but if you open yourself up to the disturbingly real ideas the film is concerned with, Hereditary will scare you in a way that is likely more than you bargained for.