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[Sundance Review] ‘Hereditary’ is Psychologically and Viscerally Grueling

[Sundance Review] ‘Hereditary’ is Psychologically and Viscerally Grueling

Hereditary has a pretty ballsy death in it that I don’t even want to spoil. So I won’t but bravo, Ari Aster. I’ll just talk about everything else that’s somehow even more intense.

After a grandmother dies, Annie (Toni Collette) has trouble coping. Her children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) seem more affected by their mom’s distance than mourning their grandmother. Steve (Gabriel Byrne) just tries to keep the peace but isn’t doing a very good job.

This is still the Toni Collette emotional turmoil movie that usually plays Sundance, only it becomes a horror movie with the same intensity. Annie goes to grief support groups with sponsor Joan (Ann Dowd) and discusses the history of mental illness that strained her relationship with her mother and threatens her relationship with her children. Then the seances start.

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So yeah, it turns out this family’s psychological issues were actually psychic powers. That can be dicey. You don’t want to stigmatize mental illness, or tell people truly suffering that it’s just their scary magic powers. I think it’s so clear up front that Hereditary is a horror movie first. Like The Exorcist tried to explain it away medically, of course, this family assumed they had a medical diagnosis first. But no, they really are in a horror movie. It’s still respectful to the idea that this family dealt with the psychological side. At least there’s treatment for that. There’s no psychiatrist for a medium.

There are plenty of signs of haunting, including jump scares, spooky atmosphere and stuff that just creeps you out like bugs. Attempts to break the psychic link are met with supernatural retaliation. Basically, Annie is fucked. Peter is actually the most freaked out by everything that starts happening. Wolff’s reactions to it are as scary as anything he’s reacting to.

So try not to hear anything more about Hereditary. You want to let it hit you. It’s a grueling two hours both psychologically and viscerally.



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