How Grief Brings Out Our Inner Demons – “Hereditary” Review

*Warning: There are some spoilers. Enjoy!

I’ve loved horror films quite a bit my entire life. Why you may ask? It could be because I have a fascination with our relationship with fear. Movies with characters like Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc. never scared me because they were human-like beings. I feel real fear comes from the unknown. Something you can’t see but can feel right behind you that makes the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up causing you to break out in a cold sweat. I am currently on the hunt for some of the scariest movies with “unknown” characters.

Some things a successful paranormal movie should have are: 1) A family with a hidden family secret. 2) A big old looking house 3) Things that go bump in the night….and daytime. Hereditary has all of that and more! It is a very interesting thriller about a family that has gone through a series of tragic events and is torn apart by supernatural forces. This movie gives you everything that a story about the paranormal could give you; séances, headless bodies, jump scares, and naked figures that smile at you…….Okay maybe that’s not in all paranormal movies, but it is pretty creepy. I mean how would you feel if a random naked guy was smiling at you from inside a dark room.

Being that this is Ari Aster’s first time writing and directing his own film, he has done a great job by telling a story that teaches us the sins of our elders can pass from generation to generation. What makes this movie so special and different from other horror movies is that it touches on emotional and mental damage and how it can manifest itself into a “spirit.”


The movie starts off with Annie Graham, played by Toni Collette. She is an artist who makes miniature models of rooms and is preparing to bury her mother. We later find out that her mother had been suffering with mental illness. We are also introduced to her husband Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne, and their two children, Peter and Charlie. Peter (who is played by The Naked Brothers Band’s Alex Wolff) is a pothead who has difficulty fitting in.

Charlie, played by Milly Shapiro, is an odd little girl who has an interest in building toys out of random items, makes “clocking” sounds, and scarfs down bars of chocolate. She’s the type to bite a Kit Kat whole instead of breaking it first. Disgusting. And she can also see ghosts, which is just great considering the fact that Annie finds out her mom kept books on “spirituality” in boxes. Guess it runs in the family. Annie attends a support group for people who have lost loved ones and expresses how destructive her mother was on her life when she was a child.


The horrific and troubling event that sets everything off is when Peter is forced to take Charlie along with him to a party. He goes off with his friends to smoke leaving his little sister behind. She gets herself some chocolate cake and realizes she can’t breathe. She’s allergic to nuts and guess what the cake had in it? Peter drives her to the hospital going 90mph.

Charlie opens the window and pokes her head out to breathe. Peter continues to drive really fast as Charlie continues to gasp for air not realizing that a pole quickly approaches her. You can imagine what happened next. This scene was the most intense. It left me in shock. I had no words. You could feel Peter’s guilt and fear the moment it happened. He did not call the police. He didn’t tell anyone. He drove home and laid in bed, waiting for the moment when someone would find out what happened. Morning comes and all you hear is a scream. After that event, everything seems to go left. Annie meets one of the support group members Joan, played by Ann Dowd, who persuades her into doing a séance so she could speak to her deceased daughter. Now, you know when you go talking to the dead, nothing ever goes right.


Hereditary is not like any other horror film out there. It takes emotional distress and brings out not only paranormal demons, but the inner demons inside us. Toni Collette played an exceptional role and her performance made this movie the success it is. Her performance lets viewers accompany her on her journey in a very real, emotional way. You can feel everything through her actions. She pulls this off through her facial expressions and actions so well.

Imagine being a grieving daughter and mother and what toll that could take on someone. She was literally falling apart, losing it piece by piece. This movie was created not only to entertain us but forces us to look at ourselves in relation to how we take grief. What makes this movie different from others is that it never relies on jump scares to provoke a reaction. Instead, it creates that unnerving feeling by slow camera pans over vivid imagery such as bugs on rotting corpses, and pools of blood. It also does the opposite in a sense that the paranormal aspect is the calm part. The “normal” parts are what cause you to think twice. The music creates sudden pulses of fear, drawing attention to the film’s trick of changing day to night and vice versa using one beat. Kind of like turning a light on and off by using a switch. The cinematography creates the feeling of the family’s house looking like a doll house which supports the opening scene of us seeing the occupants from a zoomed in shot of a doll house. You’ll definitely love this movie if you’re a fan of The OmenThe Exorcist, and The Babadook. 

8.5 out of 10


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  • Anissa Hanley

    Digital Artist

    Jane of all Trades, Master of ALL.

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