Hereditary Review: The Scariest Movie I’ve Ever Seen


Still image of one of the most terrifying performances in film.

Gavin Clingham, Staff Writer

So it’s safe to say that I have not seen a lot of horror movies. I’ve avoided them for a while because, while my parents also don’t like them, I’ve mostly been scared to watch them. Then I decided that I was going to try to watch one that was picking up a lot of buzz called Titane. I realized that this was a stupid decision because I hadn’t seen a horror film before, and starting off with something by a filmmaker whose previous work had deeply scarred me was not a good idea. So I decided to go ahead and start with this film, Hereditary. Now that I think about it, I may have gotten the order wrong for which film I should’ve watched first because, my god, this one was terrifying. 

I’m not going to go too far into the plot of Hereditary because I managed to dodge enough spoilers to get the proper experience myself. Hereditary follows a grieving mother named Annie (played by the thoroughly talented Toni Collette) who has recently buried her mentally ill mother (Kathleen Chalfant). As she tries to keep her family together, she begins to uncover deep and disturbing secrets about her mother that were passed on across generations. I’m not going to say more because the way this film took me by surprise with the force of a thousand suns is something I cherish and I definitely cannot ruin this experience for anyone else.

Still image of the family in Hereditary. (

Surprise, surprise, this film is scary. But what Hereditary does brilliantly is that it isn’t in your face with the scary moments. It doesn’t just constantly jump at you and expect you to get scared. The film welcomes you in so that you feel safe and then lets you sit in the dread and creepiness. Then with that, it creeps you out more and then proceeds to truly scare you. That’s, at least, how I felt while sitting through this film––I was biting my nails, curled up in a ball the whole time. It had jump scares but they felt like they actually had a pay off and didn’t just come out of nowhere. And there is one shot in this film that is the most disturbing shot I have ever seen in any movie. It’s not some kind of gory or disgusting shot or anything, it is just pure, creepy horror that aligns with the rest of the movie. I will say, you might not want to watch this film if you’re supposed to do some kind of fun activity afterwards. I can’t say from experience but I just had a long feeling of dread after this film was over. Also, during the film, I heard someone make a cluck noise and I felt a sharp and painful shiver travel down my spine (it makes more sense if you see the movie).

Another highlight was the acting in this film. The entire ensemble did a really good job. It’s rare to see such realistic and grounded acting, and I love the film for that. Alex Wolff gave a very deep and sad performance that made me feel so much sadder when I realized that he did a bit of method acting for the film. He asked the cast and crew to call him by his character’s name, Peter, he barely talked to anyone to realistically portray Peter’s distant personality, and he even slammed his nose on a desk for real despite the fact that he was supposed to get a foam desk. He sadly needed therapy after this film, but his commitment to it can’t be ignored. Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne gave solid performances as well, and it seemed like they were the glue to hold this dysfunctional family together. And then the wide highlight of them all, Toni Collette. My god, she was good in this movie. I had heard ravings of her performance because there was a widespread outrage when she was snubbed for best actress, but I didn’t expect this. What she does best is not try to force herself to appeal to the Academy Awards. She keeps her acting grounded while performing every heavy scene to the best ability. And of course, she uses her performance to make the audience also terrified, which was effective for scares in this film. 

Still image of Milly Shapiro in Hereditary. (

Also, I was so impressed by Ari Aster’s camera work in Hereditary. I initially just expected him to be this disturbing director that instigates therapy but I didn’t think that he was such a stylistic director. He keeps the style grounded but every now and then, he comes in with really unique and cool shots that add such an interesting level to this movie. He experiments by starting the movie off in a dollhouse that moves into a real room. He films Toni Collette walking in a hallway but on the ceiling and upside down, and he pulls off such disturbing yet beautiful shots that make me so infatuated with this movie. I completely underestimated him and I can’t wait to see what he does next (he’s doing a nightmare comedy movie with Joaquin Phoenix). 

All in all, I was absolutely blown away by this movie. I just love when films like these have such a richness to them that make me want to look into them. It’s a filmmaking achievement that both terrifies and impresses me to a level I did not expect before. I love this film even though I don’t know if I want to go through it again. I’d recommend this movie if you’re up for it, but do be warned that it’s scary (obviously).