Depriving true communication of art to the audience by ruthlessly censoring it, is criminal. This appalling act of unjustified censoring is the most frustrating aspect of Hereditary, among other frustrating scripting issues.
The director of the film, Ari Aster, chooses a style of filmmaking that distances itself, thankfully, from the blandness of the conjuring films and employs a classic horror storytelling style. The sparse use of sound ensures that an eerie feeling is incubating in those long silences, waiting to burst out. No other scene is a testament to this fantastic piece of filmmaking than the one that happens 20 minutes into the film. This is a scene, which sounds too simplistic and obvious on paper but the director uses the cinematic tools like, music, camera and silence to create a resounding impact that you cease to breath for a few moments.
Hereditary is a story of a family that is battling emotional and supernatural complexities. Annie’s mother is dead and she asks her husband ” Should I be feeling sad ? ” The husband replies ” Feel what you feel like.. ” The death of the old woman affects Annie’s daughter the most. Charlie is a 13 year old girl who had been close to her demented grandmother. Peter, played by an excellent Alex Wolff, is Annie’s son, who is in High school and has a troubled relationship with his mother. The rest of the film unfolds as these emotionally conflicted characters try to come to terms with something they don’t understand but are petrified of.
Milly Shapiro, who plays the 13 year old girl, Charlie, has a unique screen presence that is bizarre and captivating. A kind of a performance that will leave you with a feeling you don’t want to have in your mind. A presence that will not let you breathe easy when she is on screen.
There are some truly terrifying scenes that involve Annie, played by Toni Collette, whose face acts as both, an outlet and source of fear that the character and audience feel. The close-ups of her terrified face are deeply unsettling. Despite this winning performance by Toni, we are not hooked to the character. Every good horror film needs to have a character that is a window to the audience, to look at the proceedings of the story, this is exactly what Hereditary fails to offer. The screenplay loses focus far too often, for us to hook on to a character or a story thread. Even though the skilful camera work makes sure that you are always feeling the lurking evil, in your bones, not knowing what is at stake, dampens the fear factor.
After playing out as an atmospheric psychological thriller, the film succumbs to unwarranted censoring of an already confusing story. There are many loose ends left untied, that only add to the frustration and the climax is straight out of any substandard horror film that has no aspirations of achieving greatness. It is a pity that a film that promised to be an eerie horror, familial drama, ends up being a laughable story of occult. Could this have been any different if not for the censoring, well that can only be answered upon watching the full version but Hereditary, certainly does not deliver to its potential.