Hereditary – Another Horror Movie to Add to the Pile

Horror movies come in various flavors. There are the cerebral, where the director holds back much of the gruesomeness, understanding Alfred Hitchcock’s genius realization that the viewer is able to imagine far more darkly than the director may be allowed to go. That is much of what keeps the Hitchcock canon still in high regard. You also have the slash and burn, blood spattering gorefests which result in a hamster wheel effect of an escalating arms race of who can push the edge of the envelope furthest.

There are various subgenres and permutations, but the type of horror films that are the most appealing to me are the ones that set up a clever premise, and slowly ratchet up the edginess. The gore, if gratuitous, diminishes the finished work. Films like “28 Days” and its surprisingly successful sequel “28 Days Later” fit squarely into the category I like.

Where does “Hereditary” fit in? Somewhere in the middle.

In his directorial debut, Ari Aster helms a pretty clever plot involving a deceased grandmother and the ripple effect her death has. Plot devices not recently seen (decapitation, séance, desecration and spontaneous human combustion) figure into the action. That collectively pushes the gore needle a bit too far for me. The family is comprised of Toni Collette as Annie Graham, a miniaturist artist; Gabriel Byrne as husband Steve Graham; Milly Shapiro as Charlie, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter and Alex Wolff as the couple’s 16-year-old son. The cast is pretty solid, and Byrne maintains his generally high standard.

On balance, “Hereditary” has enough twists to keep me occupied, but I did not need the gruesomeness.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.