Horror is a genre that exposes whether a director has got “it,” and first-time feature director Ari Aster absolutely has “it” in this thriller about a woman named Annie (Toni Collette) who is dealing with the recent death of her mother when she begins to see spectral apparitions, and her family faces a variety of fresh terrors. Lurking around the edges of Aster’s story are metaphors for parents who fear what they might pass on to their kids—like mental illness—but the thematic stuff is almost incidental. This is simply one creepy-ass piece of filmmaking, as Aster shows off an exquisite sense of where to put the camera so that, e.g., something unspeakable lurks in a dark corner of the frame. And he’s savvy enough at setting up his narrative and sound design so that a seemingly innocuous noise like a clucked tongue becomes a harbinger of doom. Hereditary gets a bit needlessly expository during its climax, and there’s some pacing fat that could stand trimming. It’s absolutely worth that extra time, though, to put yourselves in the hands of someone who understands how cinema can inspire profound unease.
Director: Ari Aster
Producer: Kevin Frakes, Lars Knudsen, Buddy Patrick, Jonathan Gardner, William Kay and Ryan Kreston
Cast: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro, Mallory Bechtel and Brock McKinney