Head in the Horror: Ari Aster’s “Hereditary”


Courtesy of A24 Films

By Kate Rogala

Ari Aster’s 2018 horror film “Hereditary” felt like a slow burn kind of movie. Some may have liked it and others not so much. From a glance it may look like your average paranormal film, but when you take a step back and really look at it the movie as a whole tackles the topic of mental illness. But we’ll get to that later.

We dive into “Hereditary” with the opening scene of a funeral for Annie Graham’s mother. As she speaks about her mother’s life and passing she mentions that her mother battled dementia, personality disorders, and practiced rituals.  

After Annie finishes her mother’s eulogy, the guests are allowed to peer into Grandmother Graham’s casket to pay their final respects.

Annie’s youngest child, Charlie, is seen absentmindedly drawing her grandmother from her open casket. Not typically something you’d see from a child at a funeral, huh? As others are passing by the scene focuses on a pendant that the grandmother is wearing. 

Fast forward to a few days after the funeral. The residents at the Graham home seem to all be in limbo. The eerie silence and hushed voices are there to give the audience a feeling of anxiety and curiosity. 

“Hereditary” had a lack of music and instead used the power of silence and whispers to their advantage at keeping the audience engaged. 

It seems that Annie and her children are struggling with the passing of their beloved grandmother, despite the secrecy and unpleasant last memories. In order to distract himself, Annie’s oldest child Peter decides to go to a party and is forced to bring young Charlie along.

But after Charlie has a severe allergic reaction, Peter rushes her to the ER, but the tragic series of events is only beginning. 

One by one, each of the remaining family members are tormented with strange nightmares and unsettling visions of the deceased. 

I won’t spoil the ending, but it definitely might leave viewers confused and maybe even unsatisfied. 

Going back to the opening scene where Annie is talking about her mother’s last moments and her inner demons, she mentions that she practiced “rituals.” This can be seen as a hidden message about mental illness. After all, her mother struggled with a handful of disorders. 

What I took away from the strange visions and torment of the remaining Grahams was that mental illness found a way to pass on to them and so on. 

Overall, Aster’s 2018 movie created a film that made his viewers really think about what they watched as well as talk about a hot topic in today’s world.