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Is Hereditary The Scariest Movie Of The Year?

A spoiler-free look at the year’s most-talked-about horror flick.

Back in April,  a Perth cinema accidentally screened the trailer for Hereditary before a showing of the kids’ movie Peter Rabbit. Parents were, understandably, outraged at the error.

It’s the most perfect encapsulation of the crux of Hereditary. Sometimes, despite their best intentions, parents just can’t protect their kids from things that are out of their control.

Written and directed by Ari Aster, Hereditary stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd and Gabriel Byrne. Touted as this generation’s Exorcist, it’s been called terrifying, deeply upsetting and a “true horror film”.

From the very first moments, Hereditary fills you with a deep, relentless feeling of being unsettled, revelling in its sharp, unexpected turns. One of the scariest parts of the film is how you probably won’t know where it’s headed.

Collette plays Annie Graham, a mother of two grappling with the death of her mother -- a notoriously secretive woman  who suffered from dementia. After her death, Annie’s family are affected in various ways, especially her daughter Charlie who was closest to her recently deceased grandmother. Charlie and her brother Peter begin to experience strange things in the days after their grandmother’s death, and must also deal with their mourning mother.

This is where things really begin to kick off.

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Milly Shapiro's chilling turn as the curiously haunting Charlie. Image: A24 via StudioCanal.

As much as we want to tell you so much about the film and the manic, ridiculous directions it heads, part of the joy -- if you can call it joy -- in watching comes from experiencing those moments organically. The less you know about what you’re about to see, the more fun it ultimately is.

Collette is brilliant. She is fiery, unbalanced and twisted all at the same time. It’s never clear how you as a viewer should align yourself with Annie as you try to figure out her motives. As Annie grapples with the secrets her mother tried to bury, we’re trying to figure out Annie’s intentions, her mental state, and ultimately if she’s even the good guy here.

Family runs through the core of the film and Collette’s performance itches at what it means to not only be a parent, but a child in the wake of a parent’s death.  What is family, if not a collection of strangers thrown together by chance?

One of the most gorgeously torturous features of this film is how Aster enjoys lingering. The film takes its dear, sweet time whenever it damn well wants. Did we mention Annie is a miniaturist? She creates miniature replicas of moments of her life, painstakingly recreating eerie vignettes perfectly.

These replicas give Aster the ability to play with scale, to toy with your sense of reality. It’s another example of Aster manipulating the viewer into thinking they know what they’re seeing, but nothing is exactly as it seems at first. The way the camera plays as the film unravels, the way the viewer is positioned against the action, it all adds to that constantly unsettling feeling.

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Creepiest. Hobby. Ever. Image: A24 via StudioCanal.

Hereditary feels like something new. Much like Get Out last year, it feels like it stands in a new class of horror films. It may have something to do with its hefty arthouse aesthetic as well as the simultaneous rejection and embrace of the genre’s tropes.

When the film leads you in one direction it’s only to completely subvert your expectations, building to a final act you’ll either completely reject or be so enamoured with in its wild, unpredictable turns.

As someone who would prefer to watch a mime do their laundry than ever watch a horror film, it was impossible not to be captivated by Hereditary. It gets into your head and lingers with you like only the best horror films do.

Hereditary opens in cinemas across Australia from Thursday.

Featured image: A24 via StudioCanal.