If you’ve lost your faith in modern horror, I highly recommend going to see Hereditary. Horror films are on the up in recent years, especially with the likes of Get Out and A Quiet Place, and adding to the list of ultra-modern horror is Hereditary. Spoilers ahead…
Opening with a beautifully done panning scene, we get a view of where the film will ultimately end, the tree house. Symbolically, I don’t think the treehouse itself has any meaning, but I really liked the opening scene in itself. We open on the treehouse, slowly pan to the inside of the main house, and then slowly pan into the miniature dollhouse created by Annie, the matriarch to the family and main character of the film. As we zoom into the dollhouse, the filming subtly changes. The scene shifts to reality and the film begins.
To me, I think the use of this symbolises a few things. For one, I think it’s a look into the mental health of the main character and what she sees. Annie, at one point in the film, mentions that both her father and brother suffered from severe mental health problems, and I think this scene alone contributes to an idea that Annie herself suffers from different and altering perceptions of reality throughout the film. Does she really see what’s going on, or is a lot of it in her head? She suffers an extreme loss in this narrative, and it’s something that Toni Collete really plays well. I could feel the pain that her character experiences, and honestly it’s panic-inducing.
In the lead up to the release of Hereditary, we were shown trailers and posters that featured Charlie, Annie’s daughter. I honestly thought that this film would revolve around this young girl (and the creepy dead nan featured in the posters) but actually, the focus is entirely on Annie and, in terms of narrative, her son Peter. Charlie actually dies halfway through the film – and the whole scene gives me shivers to think about. Having visited a party with her brother, Charlie suffers a reaction to nuts, and Peter decides to drive her to the hospital. In an attempt for breath, Charlie opens the window and puts her head out. After swerving from a dead animal in the road, Charlie is decapitated, leaving Peter traumatised. The camera here pans from his vision of the road to the vision in the mirror. In a state of absolute shock, he tries to say “are you okay?” and without looking, drives home. Annie, upon waking, walks to the car and finds her daughter’s headless corpse. Her blood-curdling screams are absolutely haunting, I actually had to cover my ears during it.
The concept of this film isn’t a creepy ghost or ghoul, as we’re led to believe from the trailer, but about the possibility of possession, and the return of Paimon, a king of hell who needs a vessel in order to bring chaos on the world. The choice of the vessel in this film was decided via a cult, of which the Nan of the family was apart of. Her death at the beginning of the film sparks the reaction which leads to the death of her entire family.
I left the cinema in a state of shock after this film, and I actually think I’m going to need another watch in order to understand everything. I really rate it though, and if you have any theories I’d love to hear them.