Hereditary (2018): ‘Burn the Witch’ – A Film Review



I have to admit that in recent years I have fallen out of touch with contemporary horror. I’ve absolutely loved horror films but somewhere down the line they just seemed to lose any originality or any strength. Instead we got loads of ghost and exorcism stories that were done a lot better many years ago. However, times change, and I’m certain there’s more than meets the eye. Writer/Director Ari Aster has been making short films since 2011 and Hereditary is his first feature length film. For all those who feel that there are no original films, this is certainly one. But what surprised me is that quickly, this film seemed to strike a chord with people.


A Picture of a Model Home

Setting atmosphere and tone, there are some rather interesting uses of cinematography. Confusing looks at what you can see, quick time transitions and perhaps the film’s style summed up in one slow zoom into a model room that becomes the actual room the characters reside in. This is used to great effect throughout and certainly the film looks the part. Hereditary focuses on a family: the central four, Annie(Toni Collette), Peter (Alex Wolff), Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro), really have a sense of presence; whilst holding the tension when they’re required to. When the horror starts to set in their performances really are what holds the moments together for great unsettling moments to place you on edge. From an early start Hereditary unsettles you in a way that keeps you interested in just how the film will unfold. SPOILERS: Just how they’ll deal and be affected by the second death, for example. END of SPOILERS.



The problems with the film mostly lie within the films length. The film wants to tell a lot, and to build atmosphere in the middle of the film, Hereditary has a tendency to drag. Whilst the reliance on stereotypical ghostly apparitions feels like a step in the wrong direction. The film picks up again later on, where things get progressively worse for the family. Hereditary, however, manages to throw some interesting turns and twists throughout its narrative. Sometimes it feels a bit rushed but it never comes across as too predictable, if anything, requiring a second watch to get some of the subtleties and complexities of the film to sink in – namely the mise-en-scène.



By the end, Hereditary gets pretty out there. It relies on troupes that I can’t say I’m fond of: Hauntings and Demonic Possession; but, despite its running time, holds up as an effective horror film. Ari Aster seems to be stepping in the right direction. Hereditary might not win awards but it will break ground for the writer/director and give the possibilities of making more of these films – if horror is what he wishes to make and it seems, by Hereditary, that it’s likely. Most effective is the look and cinematography of the film pared with some strong performances and certainly this can make or break a film.



After their Grandma’s funeral, a family try to live in her house and adjust to their grief. However after an accident, things progressively get worse for the family and the Mother’s grief spirals and is taken advantage of by a medium.






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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Hereditary (d. Ari Aster USA 2018)



Further Reading

Official Site

Interview with Toni Collette

Interview with Ari Aster

Interview with Ari Aster and Alex Wolff

Interview with Steve Newburn (Effects Designer)

Behind the Scenes

More Behind the Scenes



If you liked this…

A Quiet Place (2018): ‘A Quiet Family’ – A Film Review

Unsane (2018): ‘Stalker Selfie – A Personal Look at Stalker Victims’ – A Film Review

Breaking In (2018): ‘Breaking Out’ – A Film Review


This was an analytical review of….


Hereditary (d. Ari Aster USA 2018)




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